In the west, Gorbachev’s main legacy, apart from the liberation of eastern Europe, should be his rejection of the command-bureaucratic system as ‘suffocating.’ And yet we’re in an age in the west where command-bureaucratic is all the rage
By William Watson, National Post, Sept. 1, 2022
If believing in communist reform was his great strategic error, Mikhail Gorbachev’s great strategic insight was that the “command-bureaucratic system” did not work. It could win a world war. It could put a sputnik into space. If you devoted a big enough share of society’s resources to a given task, command-and-control could get it done.
But it couldn’t run a dynamic economy — by destroying incentives it may not even be able to run a static economy — and a dynamic economy is what Russians and the other Soviet peoples wanted once, thanks in part to glasnost, they glimpsed what was going on in western economies. Not just wanted but deserved, too, since many were well educated and willing to work hard, once they got over the Soviet system of “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.”
In the west, Gorbachev’s main legacy, apart from the liberation of eastern Europe, should be his rejection of the command-bureaucratic system as “suffocating.” And yet we’re in an age in the west where command-bureaucratic is all the rage.
We don’t have a Soviet- or Chinese-style five-year plan to reduce carbon emissions by 40 per cent from 2030. But we do have an eight-year plan to do so. In 2035, Brits and now Californians have been told, it will be simply illegal for them to purchase a vehicle powered by diesel or gasoline combustion. Can Canada be far behind?
Ministers of industry and environment are busy teaming up with “tables” of business leaders to plan tens of billions of dollars of investment in our energy industries. The prime minister has decreed: hydrogen energy, a largely untried technology, is fine but there is no “business case” for LNG, which is already in common use around the world. So, “Nyet!” to LNG.
If young comrade Mikhail Gorbachev were teleported from his first apparatchik job in the north Caucasus to 21st-century Ottawa, he would feel pretty much at home. You only hope he would start proselytizing for glasnost and perestroika.