Details, Details…

There is a new NBER Working paper this week called “Was Stalin Necessary for Russia’s Economic Development?”by Anton Cheremukhin, Mikhail Golosov, Sergei Guriev, and Aleh Tsyvinski.

Admittedly I haven’t read the paper yet so my opinion may change, but I would be very concerned about writing a paper that claims:

1. To be able to measure TFP during Soviet Russia from 1928-1940 and Tsarist Russia from 1885-1913 (personally, I find measuring TFP under the best of circumstances extremely dubious.  See this paper by Jesus Felipe for some reasons why).

2. That “Stalin’s economic policies led to welfare loss of -24% of consumption in 1928-1940, but a +16% welfare
gain after 1941.”  Really, a 16% welfare gain?

They do add this helpful caveat though:  “[the welfare] number that does not take into account additional costs of political repression during this time period.”  It is statements like this which make economists so beloved by other social scientists. 

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