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But almost everything that interests me about Communism falls under the category of “how communism would actually work”.

Red Plenty, a semi-fictionalized account of the history of socialist economic planning, seemed like a natural follow-up.

But I’d had it on my List Of Things To Read for even longer than that, ever after stumbling across a quote from it on some blog or other: Marx had drawn a nightmare picture of what happened to human life under capitalism, when everything was produced only in order to be exchanged; when true qualities and uses dropped away, and the human power of making and doing itself became only an object to be traded.

Then the makers and the things made turned alike into commodities, and the motion of society turned into a kind of zombie dance, a grim cavorting whirl in which objects and people blurred together till the objects were half alive and the people were half dead. A dance to the music of use, where every step fulfilled some real need, did some tangible good, and no matter how fast the dancers spun, they moved easily, because they moved to a human measure, intelligible to all, chosen by all.

Even unofficially, most of their leaders and economists were pretty certain of it.

And for a little while, even their capitalist enemies secretly worried they were right. Under capitalism, plutocrats use the profits of industry to buy giant yachts for themselves.

But if I can impose a thesis upon the text, I don’t think it agreed with this.

In certain cases, Russians were very well-incentivized by things like “We will kill you unless you meet the production target”.

Red Plenty is about that moment in history, and how it came, and how it went away; about the brief era when, under the rash leadership of Khrushchev, the Soviet Union looked forward to a future of rich communists and envious capitalists, when Moscow would out-glitter Manhattan and every Lada would be better engineered than a Porsche.

If Ford discovers a clever new car-manufacturing technique, their first impulse is to patent it so GM can’t use it, and GM’s first impulse is to hire thousands of lawyers to try to thwart that attempt.

Under communism, everyone is working together, so if one car-manufacturing collective discovers a new technique they send their blueprints to all the other car-manufacturing collectives in order to help them out.

Under communism, the profits can be reinvested back into the industry to build more factories or to make production more efficient, increasing growth rate.

Under capitalism, everyone is competing with each other, and much of your budget is spent on zero-sum games like advertising and marketing and sales to give you a leg up over your competition.

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