The American Interest

Failing America

The Soviet Communist Party used to devote a lot of attention to the problem of inefficient agriculture.  The party’s Agrarian Policy Commission debated endlessly, throughout the final quarter-century of the Soviet state’s existence, how to improve the system.  Should the state farm (sovkhoz) be made self-financing?  Should the collective farm (kolkhoz) have its own heavy equipment, or should it depend on state-operated tractor stations?  How to reconcile the principles of the command economy, with its procurement quotas and state-fixed prices, with the need to motivate peasants to produce more?  What should be the maximum area of the private plot on which farmers can produce food for their own use and to supplement their incomes: a quarter-hectare or a half-hectare?

The notion that both state and collective farms should be abolished, the price of produce determined by the market, and the land given back to peasants whose holdings should be limited only by their ability to work the land never entered the discussion.  To make such a suggestion would have marked the end of an apparatchik’s political career and exposed him to all manner of unpleasantness.  The solution to the problem of collectivized agriculture lay outside the ideological parameters of the decisionmaking community.

This spring, the proceedings of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks...

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