Soviet Sports and the Efficiency of Central Planning
University of Oklahoma
Daniel J. Smith
Johnson Center at 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 poor intentions on the part of its leaders. If so, the failure of the Soviet Union would not constitute evidence against the impossibility of central planning in other nations. We examine the implications of Soviet successes in Olympics and chess for the argument 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. Where economic information was not needed and the knowledge problem much less serious, Soviet planning was much more successful. Thus, Soviet successes in centrally planning sports reinforce the epistemic argument against economic planning.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 31
Keywords: central planning, Soviet Union, socialism, economic calculation
JEL Classification: B53, P20
Date posted: May 10, 2013 ; Last revised: May 22, 2013
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