The transition from socialism to capitalism in Uzbekistan

Posted: 27 February 2012 in Uncategorized
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There may be all kinds of interesting debates we could have about the nature of socialism in Uzbekistan but one thing is incontrovertible: the collapse of the Soviet Union and the transition to capitalism have led to the rise of coerced child labor in cotton production.

As Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson explain,

After independence, farmland that was previously under the control of state-owned firms was distributed to farmers. But they weren’t suddenly free to plant and sell what they wished. The government introduced regulations that determined what they should plant and how much they should sell it for. For cotton, that meant they would receive a tiny fraction of the world market price. For many, it wouldn’t make sense to grow cotton at these prices. But the government dictated that they had to. Before independence, much of the cotton was picked by combine harvesters. Yet given these rewards, farmers stopped investing in or maintaining farm machinery. So coerced child labor was Karimov’s cost-effective method of picking cotton. . .

There was no coerced child labor in Uzbekistan when cotton was produced by state-owned firms.

One other point: Acemoglu and Robinson blame the problem of coerced child labor on the existence of “extractive economic institutions” in Uzbekistan and other poor countries. However, given the definition they use—”economic institutions designed to extract resources from the population and businesses for the benefit of a narrow elite”—which if any forms of capitalism would be excluded?

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