Markets, Productivity, and Happiness in a Historical Perspective

Russian economists in 1917-30s about happiness, productivity and economic growth

Shvandar Kristina , Financial Research Institute under Ministry of Finance
Shvandar Darya , Financial University

“The happiness of the individual outside of society is impossible, just as the life of a plant pulled out of the ground and thrown onto barren sand is impossible.” L.N. Tolstoy The discussions of Russian economists during the period of revolutionary transformations in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century were saturated not only with political judgments, but also with the economic justification of the processes taking place during this period. The ideas of socio-economic alignment of industrial and rural production, redistribution of finished products, balancing consumption and production can be compared with the search for ways to achieve happiness on a national scale, which was expressed as a desire for socialism. In addition to supporters of the Marxist theory (V. Lenin, N. Bukharin, L. Trotsky), the ideas that were supposed to outline the country's path to happiness were expressed in their scientific works by leaders of other economic movements, such as G. Plekhanov, P. Maslov, V. Chernov, N. Makhno and others. For example, G. Plekhanov wrote that "a powerful development of the productive forces, which undoubtedly lies in the interests of this class, is now possible only where the working population rises to a high standard of living." P. Maslov saw the main obstacle to the progressive development of the country in the huge unproductive consumption by the state and the propertied classes. He criticized the October Revolution, believed that a financial and economic crisis was inevitable, "because the country cannot consume more than it produces for a long time." One of the leaders of the Social Revolutionaries, V. Chernov, considered it necessary to create an extensive industrial infrastructure in the countryside, a system of bodies for regulating land use. He criticized the increased taxation of wealthy peasants, and also noted the unequal value of the peasant and working ruble, since the state regularly put new paper money into circulation by the time of grain procurements. Chernov wrote that life took a different path than predicted by K. Marx. A prerequisite for solving the problems of building socialism, that is, achieving socio-economic general happiness, he saw in the organization of economic life on the basis of self-government. The anarchist leader N. Makhno proposed extensive barter to improve the state of the national economy: in exchange for agricultural products, “to deliver to the village not only consumer goods, but also tools for the collective cultivation of the land”, and to exchange with the peasantry “huge communist associations covering entire industries” , stimulating the peasants themselves to unite.


Keywords: happiness, productivity and economic growth,economists, G. Plekhanov, P. Maslov, V. Chernov, N. Makhno

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