Soviet Sports and the Efficiency of Central Planning

Daniel Sutter

University of Oklahoma

Daniel J. Smith

Troy University

May 9, 2013

The failure of economic central planning in the Soviet Union is interpreted as evidence of the impossibility of efficient central planning. But the deficiencies of the Soviet economy might have resulted from other factors, such as Soviet history, culture, leadership, and/or unique circumstances, such as the Cold War. If so, the failure of the Soviet Union would not necessarily constitute evidence against the impossibility of central planning under different conditions. Yet, in some areas such as chess and the Olympics, central planning in the Soviet Union was remarkably successful. We examine the implications of Soviet successes in Olympics and chess to reassess the epistemic and motivational arguments against central planning. We contend that three factors help explain Soviet sports successes: first, the objectivity of success in sports or chess in contrast with the subjectivity of economic success; second, the importance of fame and renown as motives for Olympic class athletes and chess grand masters; and third, the poor economic performance of the Soviet Union, which helped ensure incentive compatibility. The Soviet Union’s success in achieving goals that did not require complex economic information or a fundamental realignment of incentives, but not in centrally planning the economy, reinforce the epistemic and motivational arguments against economic central planning.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 40

Keywords: central planning, Soviet Union, socialism, economic calculation

JEL Classification: B53, P20

Open PDF in Browser Download This Paper

Date posted: May 10, 2013 ; Last revised: March 28, 2016

Suggested Citation

Sutter, Daniel and Smith, Daniel J., Soviet Sports and the Efficiency of Central Planning (May 9, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2262894 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2262894

Contact Information

Daniel Sutter
University of Oklahoma ( email )
307 W Brooks
Department of Economics Office Hest 329
Norman, OK 73019
United States
405-325-2861 (Phone)
Daniel J. Smith (Contact Author)
Troy University ( email )
Bibb Graves Hall 137F
Troy, AL 36082
United States
334-808-6485 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.danieljosephsmith.com/
Feedback to SSRN

Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 1,867
Downloads: 137
Download Rank: 165,712