Fascinating discussion going on at Jane Galt. Is your average modern Russian materially no more well off than his 1910 counterpart?
Did an entire nation miss out on most of a century of growth?
These comparisons are silly. There is a very old science fiction short story about a guy who freezes himself for a few hundred years, leaves money in a top interest account, and then comes back. He’s got a million to spend but…Phone calls cost $1, ice cream cones $10 and things like that, only he finds that there is suddenly an entire range of things that people living in the future absolutely have to have, things that nobody dreamed of two hundred years before: shopping is done electronically and groceries are magically delivered, everybody MUST own an electronically directed car and you must make costly road reservations to travel, your credit is checked every 30 minutes, you must work out at specific gyms and do specific excercises or else, and so on and so on. These “necessities” soon drain him of his million and he is arrested for being broke and sent to prison.
The things people needed in 1910 etc.etc.etc. Conversation over.
Howard, I think you missed the point.
The average Russian in 1910 was scraping out a living on someone else’s land, and dying fairly young.
Not much has changed since.
The cities are bigger and shinier, but most are still working the fields.
I left a comment over at Megan’s, but to follow up on your point:
It is not that difficult for a nation to develop one or two centers of excellence—especially if you make them a national priority and throw what resources you have at it. But national development (for which GDP is a proxy), presuming broad-based development, is a far iffier thing.
Thus, just about any nation can, w/ a little time and money, create a nuclear weapon (Mao vowed that China would have one if the people had to eat grass for a decade). But expanding both nationwide and in multiple areas, that’s a different story entirely.
Part of what held them back was not stupid economics, but a century of tears: Hitler killed at least 19 million in the USSR, Stalin murdered around 3 million Ukrainians, and this just gets the list started. My “favorite”: a gulag was any Soviet farmer who had saved up a modicum of money in his life: bad boy, you die. How can you have a century with all that, moron economics or not?
The Russians took the full weight of Europe’s two grand political movements, fascism and communism. They should sue Europe for political malpractice.
Compare 1900 America with today.