I say not pshaw or balderdash to claims of capitalist rationality but peacocks!

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Now that the Soviet Union has collapsed, we are no longer treated to stories about the planned economy where machines spotted out thousands of right foot shoes in one size as it was easier to fulfil plan targets without resetting machinery. Or lorries driven empty for hundreds of miles to fulfil targets expressed in terms of distance. Some of these stories were probably exaggerated but we were encouraged to laugh at the folly of trying to plan an economy. However, I can report that the economy has not become drab and uninteresting with the demise of the Soviet Union. Capitalism has stepped into the breach. I offer this quote from today’s Financial Times:

“A government white paper published last week painted a picture of a railway system hobbled by the byzantine structures created since privatisation……

The system now has almost 400 full-time staff called “train delay attributers” (sic) whose job it is to argue with each other about assigning blame for a delay… .The most bizarre dispute of recent years involved a debate about who was to blame for a train hitting a peacock. If it was defined as a small bird, then the company driving the train was responsible: if it was categorised as a large bird, then the blame went to the operator of the tracks. The two sides ended up haggling over whether peacocks were bigger than geese. (The answer: a peacock is a “large bird”.)”.

I have a feeling that the jokes about the Soviet economy might have oversimplified things a bit…

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