fbpx

Latest Posts

Home

Facebook

Twitter

Search
About

When Hubert met Nikita

I’ve written a lot here about the importance of incentives in economics. Recently, I came across a good illustration in Carl Solberg’s excellent biography of Hubert Humphrey.

In December 1958, while on a visit to Moscow, then Senator Humphrey was summoned to see Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev. They talked for many hours about banning the testing of nuclear weapons, among other things. As the meeting broke up,

…Humphrey told Krushchev he had not asked him all the questions he had wanted to. He had not brought up China. Krushchev, eyes narrowing, said: “You are a subtle man, you are trying to trap me into talking about China”

Humphrey answered: “Let me ask you a question.”

Krushchev replied: “No, no, they’re our ally.”

Humphrey persisted: “Can I ask you about agriculture? I don’t want to get you into the ally business.”

Krushchev’s response was perhaps the long day’s most revealing disclosure: “About the communes they are old-fashioned. They are reactionary. We tried that right after the revolution. It just doesn’t work, not nearly as good as the state farms and collective farms. You know, senator, these communes are based on the principle – from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. Well, you know that won’t work. There is no incentive. You can’t get production without incentive.”

Startled, Humphrey replied: “That’s rather capitalist.”

Krushchev replied: “Call it what you will, it works.”

Out of the mouths of communists…

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment. 

Comments

Subscribe

Categories

Upcoming Events

  • Master Class: How good are Minnesota’s public schools, really?

    Location: Online Event

    Sign up HERE for this online event! Center of the American Experiment invites you to join us for a free 4-week live online course in public policy, featuring our expert economists and policy fellows. The first four Wednesdays in April, we will broadcast right to your laptop or phone during the noon lunch hour! Each Zoom webinar will be moderated by President John Hinderaker in a way that allows for maximum audience participation. And if you can’t make the live airing, everyone registered will be sent a video recording of the event after it has ended. This is your chance…

    Register Now
  • Master Class: How regulation affects your everyday life

    Location: Online Event

    Sign up HERE for this online event! Center of the American Experiment invites you to join us for a free 4-week live online course in public policy, featuring our expert economists and policy fellows. The first four Wednesdays in April, we will broadcast right to your laptop or phone during the noon lunch hour! Each Zoom webinar will be moderated by President John Hinderaker in a way that allows for maximum audience participation. And if you can’t make the live airing, everyone registered will be sent a video recording of the event after it has ended. This is your chance…

    Register Now
  • Master Class: Everything wrong with the Green New Deal

    Location: Online Event

    Sign up HERE for this online event! Center of the American Experiment invites you to join us for a free 4-week live online course in public policy, featuring our expert economists and policy fellows. The first four Wednesdays in April, we will broadcast right to your laptop or phone during the noon lunch hour! Each Zoom webinar will be moderated by President John Hinderaker in a way that allows for maximum audience participation. And if you can’t make the live airing, everyone registered will be sent a video recording of the event after it has ended. This is your chance…

    Register Now