G. Warren Nutter’s “Traveler’s tale of the Soviet economy”: A witness to the actual world
The text of G. Warren Nutter’s 1956 “Traveler’s tale of the Soviet economy” challenges the belief that only credentialed experts offer useful economic analysis. Nutter’s introduction is a remarkable statement of an approach in which an expert attempts to see the world through eyes unfiltered by theoretical propositions. His distrust of theory is such that his “Tale” was hurriedly written so that these presuppositions did not creep in to “correct” the naïve impressions of a tourist. Two decades after Nutter’s trip, Alain Besançon (Survey: A Journal of East and West Studies 25(4): 143–159, 1980) pointed out the inconsistency between the Soviet world described by witnesses and that described by orthodox Western economic models. More recently an inconsistency in the sequences of models in American economic textbooks—faster Soviet growth without catching up to American levels—has been detailed (Levy and Peart Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 78: 110–125, 2011). A difference between the witnessed world and the modeled world in the sequence of textbooks is that the modeled world was not possible.
KeywordsG. Warren Nutter Soviet economy Traveler’s tale Witness Impossible world
JEL classificationB3 P20 P51
David Ortiz-Escobar and Jane Perry did the collation with the US News and World Report. We are deeply grateful to Mrs. Jane Nutter for permission to reprint. We are grateful to the late Richard Ware whose advice was very helpful and to John Moore for his encouragement. We discovered the manuscript as we were working on a project supported by grants from the Earhart Foundation and the Pierre F. and Enid Goodrich Foundation. Pete Boettke directed us to the work of Alain Besançon.
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