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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A free-market economist among the Soviets

Maltsev_2 Yuri Maltsev is a free-market Austrian School economist, he lived in the Soviet Union, worked on the perestroika economic transition team of Mikhail Gorbachev, defected to the United States in 1989 and edited a Requiem for Marx in 1992.

He appears on Lew Rockwell's interview podcast today, he's entertaining and full of interesting anecdotes. Among other things, he spends some time talking about the "imbecility of central planning," explaining why the the skewed incentives that result from socializing the provision of healthcare, as they did in the USSR, as we have done in Canada and as president-elect Obama plans to further do in the USA, means inferior treatment, unnecessary waste and expense, and less of the services needed by patients.

However, the best part of the fourteen-minute interview is hearing Maltsev explain how it came about that he should be an anti-statist libertarian in the Soviet Union. Maltsev's family had been directly targeted by the Communist regime so he had always held some skepticism about the government under which he lived, but it was not until he read a samizdat copy of Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom that he began to have doubts about socialism itself. So influenced was he by the book that he changed his major at Moscow's University of Marxism-Leninism from History to the History of Economic Thought. Maltsev's academic adviser explained to him that goal of his new program was to provide a "critique of vulgar bourgeois ideology," but for Maltsev it was the only way he could read highly restricted works by Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek and study non-socialist economics. It's a joy to hear Malstev recount the story of an individual commited to the pursuit of truth subverting the efforts of a murderoous totalitarian regime which aimed to hold all its subjects in ignorance.

Maltsev, now a professor of economics at Wisconsin's Carthage College, will be speaking about "The Fall of Communism and the Rise of 21st Century Socialism" at the Economics and Government Seminar being held on November 22nd at the University of Waterloo by the Institute for Liberal Studies. For Central Canadians interested in classical liberal ideas, the seminar is one you won't want to miss. It's free for students and $10 for others, but you must register online in advance.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on November 11, 2008 in Economic freedom | Permalink


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