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Note though that when many of the former soviet economies liberalized some of their economic and social outcomes were initially not so great. They experienced high inflation and, in some cases, a sharp drop in life expectancy. [1,2]

I understand that some economists explain the high inflation by saying that pent-up demand was "unleashed" after the Soviet Union collapsed. To me this seems kinda hand-wavy (is it possible to measure pent-up demand?).

On a related note, something that comes close to a natural experiment is a comparison of the economic history of Finland and Russia. Finland was part of the Russian empire and, like the rest of Russia, was very poor at the time. It then broke away during the civil war, which is, of course, around the time that Soviet communism began to take root. Meanwhile, a little later, Finland took took a different economic path and instead implemented some social democratic policies and is now per capita richer than Russia and indeed many countries in Europe. [3]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transition_economy#Transition_...

[2] https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.LE00.IN?location...

[3] I realize Finland is not a perfect social democratic economy, but it is a closer approximation than most European economies

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