PRICES: Inflation, Communist Style

The controlled press of the Soviet Union and other Communist countries has recently found fresh and juicy evidence of capitalist decline: the double-digit inflation now ravaging Western nations. By contrast, Red journalists crow, living standards in the socialist bloc have markedly improved in the past decade or so, while price rises have been virtually nil. There is some truth to that claim, but like vodka, it has to be taken cautiously in order to avoid losing touch with reality.

Officially, most Communist governments maintain virtually zero inflation because prices for almost all goods and services are set by state agencies and...

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