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Assignment: General Populace Deterioration

Assignment: General Populace Deterioration

Assignment: General Populace Deterioration

NOW FOR AN ORIGINAL PAPER ASSIGNMENT:Assignment: General Populace Deterioration

Most Soviet citizens led relatively austere lives with few of the conveniences Westerners took for granted. Soviet economists estimated about one-fourth of all grain harvested each year was lost before it got to the market. As a result, meat and dairy consumption for the average Soviet citizen declined nearly 30%.* Store shelves were often empty and spare parts unavailable. According to one estimate, women spent an average of two hours a day, seven days a week, waiting in line to purchase the few basic goods available.* In the twilight of the Soviet era, an estimated 28% of the Soviet population lived below the official Soviet poverty line.*

While the Soviet economy decayed and the quality of life for the general populace deteriorated, growing social problems threatened the very fabric of Soviet society. Among the worst were alcoholism and corruption. Another major problem was a widening technology gap. Soviet managers had little encouragement to invest in new technologies (computers, cell phones, robotics), and the party feared (rightly, it turned out) that the coming Digital Age and Internet (already on the horizon in the 1980s) would jeopardize its information monopoly.

At the root of these problems was central planning, which discouraged initiative. Plant managers and directors of government-run farms remained tied to a central plan that imposed rigid quotas on factory and farm production. Plan fulfillment was the highest priority for all Soviet economic administrators. The Stalinist system sacrificed quality for quantity. Because of relentless pressures to meet overly ambitious production quotas, managers often took shortcuts and cooked the books to conceal failures or to paper over problems.

The cynicism of the managers was matched by the low morale of the Soviet workers, who were underemployed, unhappily employed, or simply not motivated to work. “The party pretends to pay us, and we pretend to work.” This cynicism was fed by the hypocrisy of high party officials, who espoused egalitarian ideals but lived in secluded luxury while the proletariat they glorified had to stand in long lines to buy bread and other staples.* The result was appallingly low productivity, shoddy work, and poor quality.