Obama, oops, Gorbachev was very clear: The key to long-term growth was the continuing introduction of increasingly fast high-speed rail productive machinery and equipment. Modernization, accordingly, depended heavily upon improved productivity in the machine building and metalworking sectors. For the 12th Five Year Plan, such output generally was to increase by precisely 43 percent. For numerically controlled machine tools: 125 percent. Robots: 225 percent. Processing centers: 330 percent.
And don’t think for a minute that this plan was poorly thought through. By 1990, 85-90 percent of this output was to be up to “world technical levels.” (The figure for 1986, supposedly, was about 15 percent.) And the new machine tools were to be twice as productive and reliable than earlier models, with 60 percent of the machine tools employed in the machine-tools sector itself to be less than five years old by 1990.
Can anyone be surprised that the Soviet system collapsed? Just like Obama, Gorbachev had thought of everything, with the crucial exception of electric cars, expensive energy, and high-speed rail. Or the one big simple reality that central planning does not work. Just like Gorbachev, Obama has thought of everything, except the one Big Thing: Central planning does not work. Picking winners might be great for specific interest groups, but the trough noted above is one at which only white elephants will feed. Barack Obama — a creature of college campuses, left-wing fever swamps, and the politics of arrogance — is honest in his belief that central planning can yield greater wealth to be spread around. He is in for a rude awakening.