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Test your knowledge of Ukrainian economy

29.09.2002 10:23

Johnson’s Russia List #6462, 29 September 2002

Since JRL has published many articles on the prospects of the post-Soviet economy that I read but could not understand, I have prepared a simple three-minute quiz that could comprehensively test one’s knowledge of Ukrainian (or Russian) economy. Statistical data or even a pencil would not be necessary, while relevant concepts will be provided to make the task easier for those who are not professional economists. The quiz has only 2 (two) simple questions. Are you ready? Here it comes.

Question #1.

Ivan lived in a backwater small Ukrainian village all his life. Everyone knows him and likes him, he is everybody’s friend. When he walks down the street, he smiles at everyone, and they smile back. After all, his family, and everybody else’s has lived in the village for generations. One day Ivan opened a beer stall at the village market.

Mohammed has just come to the village from Azerbaijan, a refugee from war and poverty in his country. His Russian is poor, he does not speak or understand Ukrainian. He a Muslim, his skin is dark, his food is strange, and he is disliked and referred to using a variety of derogatory terms. One day Mohammed opened a beer stall at the village market, right next to Ivan’s stall. The stalls are identical in every imaginable respect: price, products offered, location, ambiance.

Who sells more beer, Mohammad or Ivan?

Helpful concepts here are:

  • Xenophobia
  • Nationalism
  • Religious intolerance
  • Language barrier
  • A sense of community
  • Goodwill

As I said in the outset, the test is very easy. Please give your answer now.

Here is a correct answer. Mohammad sells ten times more beer than Ivan. Ivan is “one of us”; thus, he should not grow wealthier and more successful than we are by selling beer to us at a profit. Mohammad can grow wealthier because he will take his wealth away. His success will serve as another “proof” that all the dark-skinned ones are bastards.

Sorry if you did not get that one right. It is only a test, and now you know how I am trying to trick you. The next question, though, will be very, very easy, at an intellectual level of a Ukrainian seven-year old.

Question #2

The Village of Tarasivka is 40 miles away from the Village of Shevchenko. Tarasivka has seven able-bodied males ready to harvest the sugar beet. Shevchenko has eleven able-bodied males ready to harvest the sugar beet.

How many people harvest sugar beet in Tarasivka and in Shevchenko? Please give your answer now.

The answer is eleven in Tarasivka and seven in Shevchenko. All the people in Tarasivka go to harvest the beet in Shevchenko, while all the people in Shevchenko go harvest in Tarasivka, and damn the transportation costs and the comical stupidity of the whole enterprise. Why? Because should the Tarasivka people harvest in Tarasivka, they would be paid in kind, i.e. in sugar beet. But when they sign a contract to come help Shevchenko with its harvest, they will be paid an equivalent of a $1000, out of which they give $100 to the Head of the Tarasivka administration and $100 to the head of the Shevchenko administration. And Shevchenko needs help with its harvest because all its men are out harvesting in Tarasivka under the same arrangement. And then seven men of Tarasivka live on this $800 until the next harvest comes, and so do the eleven men of Shevchenko, and their entire families. (As in the first example, I am using real figures from a real situation).

I know you did not get that right. My book, Russia: a Lose/Lose Society would have helped you to get that right, but of course, I cannot publish it since America is blessed with so many fine experts on the post-Soviet economy. JRL readers can request the text of the book from the author. Some of those who did not do well on the test should not request the book, though: they should consider going into an area where they would do a little better, such as Chinese cooking or bicycle repair. In the former Soviet Union our economic advice has killed millions, though it may have made Jonathan Hay a bit wealthier.

Мой Мир

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