Coercion, Compliance, and the Collapse of the Soviet Command Economy

Posted: 5 Feb 2003

See all articles by Mark Harrison

Mark Harrison

University of Warwick; University of Birmingham


Are command systems that rest on coercion inherently unstable, and did the Soviet economy collapse for this reason? Until it collapsed, the Soviet economy did not appear unstable. Why, then, did it collapse? A game between a dictator and a producer shows that a high level of coercion may yield a stable high-output equilibrium, that stability may rest in part on the dictator's reputation, and that a collapse may be brought about by adverse trends in the dictator's costs and a loss of reputation. The facts of the Soviet case are consistent with a collapse that was triggered by the strike movement of 1989.

Suggested Citation

Harrison, Mark, Coercion, Compliance, and the Collapse of the Soviet Command Economy. Available at SSRN:

Mark Harrison (Contact Author)

University of Warwick ( email )

Department of Economics
University of Warwick
Coventry, CV4 7AL
United Kingdom


University of Birmingham ( email )

Birmingham, B15 2TT
United Kingdom

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