In This Review

The Logic of Economic Reform in Russia
The Logic of Economic Reform in Russia
By Jerry F. Hough
Brookings Institution Press, 2001, 318 pp.

Hough argues that economic reform went wrong in Russia not because "perverse" actors -- such as stick-in-the-mud managers, corrupt officials, and oligarchs -- thwarted the best efforts of liberal reformers. Rather, the same actors responded rationally to the perverse incentives created by the liberal Western reformers. Notwithstanding the more speculative aspects of his analysis, Hough exposes better than others what was going on behind the facade of reforms. But on the key issue of reform strategy, what he treats as self-evident seems less so to other observers: rather than follow the liberal reformers -- who Hough claims were as venal as they were misguided -- Russia should have stuck with the moderate conservatives in Yeltsin's entourage. If Russia had followed the latter's urging and attempted to save its manufacturing core, invest in it, and initially protect it from foreign competition, a healthier linkage between institutions and incentives might have been created. No less contentious is his claim that Russia could have caught itself and taken the Chinese path of reform even after the first round of reforms.