Friday, 29 April 2011

Socialist Technology

One of the great myths during the Cold War was the belief that Russia had more advanced technology than the West. With hindsight we saw that this was not the case. Russian people during the time didn't have personal computers, mobile phones they didn't even have fitted clothes or adequate food to eat.

During the rule of state planners Russia became a complete basket case. Russia is one of the most resource rich countries in the world, this factor helped Socialism go on for so long. People forget that Russia are the number one oil producer ahead of even Saudi Arabia. Before it became Communist, Russia was ruled under an absolutist monarchy, the Tsars. Despite this dated social system Russia exported grain and agricultural produce to Europe. During Communism this went into reverse where the country became so desperate that during the 1960's Khrushchev had to sell huge Gold holdings just to prevent starvation. 

Most of the technology Russia had was stolen from the West. They stole the H-Bomb, they stole Rocketry, they stole what little knowledge they had on computers. They had a network of spies in the West whose sole responsibility was to steal knowledge of the latest technology. However as we all know technology in a free market moves fast. The spies used to joke that as soon as they stole the technology, sent it back to Russia and allowed engineers to study the ideas, it was already out of date and obsolete. 

The space race was a classic example of how the free market was able to land people on the moon. Russia had no hope, they were no where near as they didn't have the expertise in microcomputers that were crucial to the moon landings. The Rocketry they had was stolen from WWII and crudely refined. They never really got past the point of firing a rocket into space. The Americans were able to fire a three man crew, perform lunar obits and land a small craft on the moon with the help of early computers. 

As the video states the Russian car industry again used free market ideas. They used Fiat as a model and basically made it worse. Russia was never short of great engineers and mathematicians - they were short on giving these people the freedom to express themselves. Startups are formed by individuals having ideas and having the capability to try them, away from the frustrations of big bureaucratic organisations. Some ideas fail, some succeed. There is a saying, 'The person who never makes a mistake, never tries anything new'. Free markets allow people to try different ideas and to innovate. We all know of failed concepts but without these failures we can not learn from them and make the new technology that helps human prosperity. Any innovator will tell you their greatest success were what they learnt from their failures. Prosperity always has and always will come from the bottom up, not a top down central planning approach. The do-ers need the freedom to use their talents in order to make all our lives better.

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