North Korea's "New Economic Policy"

If the headline doesn’t ring any bells, Lenin’s “NEP” was his way of reintroducing a little capitalism into the Soviet Worker’s Paradise, lest all the Soviet workers starve and/or freeze to death, which even Lenin had to concede would have been somewhat less than paradisiacal. The so-called NEP-Men (we’d call them successful small farmers or small business owners) were among the first with their backs against the wall once the economy had recovered and Stalin could afford to abolish the NEP.

With that in mind, here’s the latest from North Korea:

In the north market reforms extended to farmers in 2012 appear to have worked. At first it was thought that the reforms (which allow farmers to keep a third of their harvests and sell them on the open market) failed because the government still controlled access to factory made fertilizer, farm machinery and similar supplies and often did not deliver. But a semi-legal market developed for such goods and the government looked the other way (which it has learned to do if it wishes the markets to be productive). Many ideological hard liners in the government still oppose such market reforms, but growing starvation and unrest resulting from the anemic economy and the example of nearby China has forced the hard core communists to back off.

The hard core communists will return as soon as the population has fattened up again. That’s just what they do.