Slawa — I am guessing from your name that you may have some family connection to the former Soviet Union, so you should know that your statement can be made only with considerable qualification. At least that is my view, based on my more limited experience of visiting, living in, and studying the USSR over many decades.

First, the idea that the benefits of Soviet economic growth were “returned in benefits and redistributed within society.” There is a small element of truth here. The Gini index of money income, if anyone had compiled such a statistic, may well have been lower in the USSR than in some capitalist economies. However, whereas capitalism in the United States (although not everywhere in Europe) has brought inequalities of wealth, the Soviet Union was built from the ground up, deeply, organically, on inequalities of privilege. Special stores, special apartments, special schools, special dachas and sanatoriums, and all the rest provided goods and services for the elites that were often priced about the same as those for the masses, but accessible only to the few. For example, a can of caviar, or even a lowly can of salmon, had the same price in the special shop in the Kremlin or the faculty shop at Moscow State University as it did in the corner grocery. The difference was that it was always in stock at the special shop, and rarely-to-never in stock at the corner grocery. As a former faculty member at MGU myself, I am not making this up, or reporting something I have just read about, but speaking from personal knowledge.

So much for the “redistribution of benefits of growth.” As for environmental destruction, I detailed enough in my article to convey the fact that although there have been horrible environmental disasters and pollution in the US, there has been nothing to match the environmental record of Soviet Socialism.

Since I wrote my post on ecosocialism, I ran across a forgotten artifact of Soviet Socialism in the back of a long-neglected cupboard. It is a genuine Soviet-era poster that shows how the Soviet Union not only tolerated, but actually glorified a sickening (I mean that literally, not just figuratively) level of pollution. You can view the poster here:

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Economist, Senior Fellow at Niskanen Center, Yale Ph.D. Interests include environment, health care policy, social safety net, economic freedom.

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