Hah!

In the 1980s, the Soviet Union was famously described as “Upper Volta with rockets”.1 This unjustly disparaged the history and culture of the country now known as Burkina Faso.

That’s one way to open an economics column.

9 thoughts on “Hah!”

  1. I don’t get it. Where does burkino faso come into it and what’s disparaging to that country about referring to the soviet union as a river and some rockets.

    It rang a bell that i heard on Uni challenge that disparage was to force someone into an unequal (in terms of status) marriage.

    What seems obvious but doesn’t get much prominence is that spending on defence over and above what’s necessary to stop hostile invasion is has a huge opportunity cost. You’re using up your manpower in the levee, your using your factories to produce things that’s only purpose is to kill. True the system itself was very inefficient but just in terms of the opportunity cost of military spending caused significant harm to the soviet people in of itself.

    It should also be a lesson for those seeking ‘power and influence’ yes it’s all very nice for the leadership elites but soviet power didn’t get them very far did it?

  2. the history and culture of the country now known as Burkina Faso

    Wikipedia research suggests the history of Burkina Faso could be written thusly:

    pre-1898: howling barbarism
    1898-1958: French colony
    1958 – present: howling barbarism again

    Burkina Faso culture appears to consist of masks, dancing and the odd folk tale.

  3. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Right now it’s basically Belgium with nukes. Keeping the oil price low for the foreseeable future will put a crimp in Putin’s evil schemes.

  4. So Much For Subtlety

    Bloke in Costa Rica – “Right now it’s basically Belgium with nukes. Keeping the oil price low for the foreseeable future will put a crimp in Putin’s evil schemes.”

    That is not fair. It is about three times as wealthy as Belgium. At least nominally.

    The interesting comparison is that it is a little poorer than South Korea and a little richer than Australia. Russia does not look anything like South Korea. But its economy does look a lot like Australia. Both are large resource-rich regions that mainly export primary materials, often full of carbon. Coal in the case of Australia.

    So Australia does not have nuclear weapons. But it does have a functioning democracy and civil liberties of a sort. Its government does not murder people in the street or blow up apartment blocks in order to get their favorite KGB man elected.

    But perhaps Australia is not fair. Russia is a few places below Canada. Another very large snowy country with an economy largely dominated by primary production. By way of happenstance, Canada also does not blow up apartment buildings or murder opposition politicians or torture lawyers to death in prison. Odd that.

  5. The Burkina Faso comparison dates back, IIRC, to when that country was still called Upper Volta. It was in the Guinness Book of Records as the poorest country on earth.

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