In This Review

A Normal Country: Russia After Communism
A Normal Country: Russia After Communism
By Andrei Shleifer
Harvard University Press, 2005, 218 pp

"Normal" is not the word most people would use for Russia, but Shleifer means by it two things: no longer communist and boasting a "democratic market economy." Russia may be "highly imperfect" as both a democracy and a market, but the same, he says, is true of other "normal" (middle-income) countries, such as Brazil, Malaysia, and Mexico. In this series of essays, Shleifer insists that the reforms of the 1990s succeeded in the two most essential respects: destroying stubbornly resistant communist institutions and making markets the arbiter of economic activity. For all the missteps and half steps, Yeltsin and his young allies got it right: they were correct to see the elimination of old economic and political institutions as a prerequisite for all else; to recognize that institutions must develop in tandem with economic activity, not before, in a pro forma and easily corrupted fashion; and to resist relying on the state -- a misshapen and ill-inspired state -- to drive the reform. Time will tell whether Shleifer is correct.