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The Fall of the Soviet Union

June 20th, 2007

Conservatives love to credit this to Reagan as part of their gut-based truthiness (as opposed to fact-based truth). The idea is that Reagan simply spent so much on the military that the Soviet Union collapsed because it couldn’t keep up. Never mind that Reagan spent less on the military than Carter proposed in long-term budget proposals; that’s the kind of irrelevant “fact” that goes against the gut-check, like the fact that Bush 41 instituted the post-Cold War “Peace Dividend” that cut military spending, which is a lot less satisfying than the truthiness of blaming Clinton for gutting the military.

But from the conservative American Enterprise Institute comes a paper by a man named Yegor Gaidar. He is the director of the Institute for Economies in Transition in Moscow. Between 1991 and 1994, he was acting prime minister of Russia, minister of economy, and first deputy prime minister. And he says that the Soviet Union collapsed for very simple reasons: grain and oil, and the Soviet policies concerning them.

Reagan acolytes may still say that Reagan’s spending was the straw that broke the camel’s back, but if so, it was more along the lines of coming upon an enemy who has already been beaten half to death, and simply poking him in the shoulder, then watching him fall down. Had Carter been re-elected and Mondale followed him, the results would have been the same, except Carter would not have given away so much to the wealthy and to corporations, and our own debts would have been lesser.

Hat tip to Marc Andreessen.

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