So following in the wake of the cool NRx kids I finally got round to making myself an Ask.fm account.
Here it is: http://ask.fm/akarlin88
Feel free to ask me questions there. I can see the more thought-provoking questions ending up as individual blog posts.
The first original question I got was (for whatever random reason) about my attitudes towards Hungary’s goulash communism.
What do you make of Hungary’s ‘goulash communism’?
The least bad of all the centrally planned economies (but that is not exactly a high bar). Anecdotally, Hungarians enjoyed some of the highest consumer prosperity in the Communist bloc, on a par with East Germany or Czechoslovakia. Statistically, they had a ~25% higher GDP per capita than Poland according to Angus Maddison’s estimates, though they lagged Czechoslovakia and East Germany. After the collapse of socialism Hungary fell relatively behind; Poland has now equalized with or even slightly overtaken them. Many liberal economists would attribute this to the “statism” and lack of “reforms” of post-Communist Hungarian governments, but I think the main explanation is far more prosaic: Goulash communism simply didn’t suppress Hungary’s potential output under optimal (free market) conditions as did the more conventional, rigid centrally planned economies of the rest of the Communist bloc. Contrary to neoliberal propaganda, Poland reformed, deregulated, and privatized slowly and cautiously for the most part, but still managed to be the star performer of the post-Communist transition. This suggests that so long as you have market mechanisms in place it doesn’t *cardinally* matter if your economy is 20% or 50% state-owned, or whether you are 10th or 50th on the World Bank’s East of Doing Business index.