links for 2009-12-16
Reconfirm Ben Bernanke...

We Mourn the Death of Yegor Timurovich Gaidar

R.i.P. Yegor Timurovich Gaidar (March 19, 1956 - December 16, 2009.

I talked to him at length only once--when he came to Berkeley to give a lecture in the late 1990s, and wound up at my house for Thanksgiving dinner.

He said that in retrospect he had had only two important decisions to make:

  • At the start of his tenure, whether to decontrol prices or to send the Red Army out into the country to collect the harvest for the cities at gunpoint.

  • In the middle of his tenure, whether to go ahead with voucher privatization or try a more "Chinese" style system by which the private sector grew up around the still-operating state-owned sector.

He believed that he had made the right decisions. If he had sent the Red Army to collect the harvest at gunpoint, he said, people would have gotten shot and the political consequences woukd have been incalculable and could have been very bad indeed. If he had attempted ther "Chinese" approach, he said, it would have led to the nomenklatura stealing absolutely everything as they used their positions as managers of the state-owned sector to tunnel everything valuable out from the state-owned sector and into their own private businesses. The only thing that made the "Chinese" approach feasible in China, he said, was that China was so poor that there was effectively nothing for the nomenklatura to steal.

He was a friend of the people. He tried very hard.

I had never known that his father was a friend of Raul Castro's and had fought in the Bay of Pigs, or that he was the son-in-law of Russian science-fiction writer Arkady Strugatsky. I would have had him sign my copy of his father-in-law's book if I had known.