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Big Dead Place: Inside the Strange and Menacing World of by Nicholas Johnson, Eirik Sønneland

By Nicholas Johnson, Eirik Sønneland

Johnson’s savagely humorous [book] is a grunt’s-eye view of worry and loathing, vanity and madness in a dysfunctional, dystopian closed neighborhood. It’s like M*A*S*H on ice, a bleak, black comedy.”—The Times of London

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However, in a shock-therapist's perception, liberalisation involves not only the freeing of prices, but also the 42 Herman W. Hoen exposure of domestic enterprises to international competition. This involves the introduction of an internally convertible currency for current account transactions. The shock approach ultimately rests upon the conviction of general equilibrium, and it is rational behaviour on the part of market participants that is of crucial importance for the achievement of such an equilibrium.

For them gradualism is nothing other than a gentler version of shock therapy. To my mind, this idea is wrong, since gradualism is a far more universally employable method than shock therapy. The latter can and should be used only in a hyperinflation situation, assuming of course that the causes are of a demand-pull nature. The time-frame must, however, be short and the degree of radicalism a function of the rate of inflation. The period of application of shock therapy has to be brief because of the immense social costs that it exacts.

A gradual approach is a response to the perceived political feasibility. It focuses on the possibility and the necessity of compromise. Political barriers have to be lifted beforehand, and therefore the policy should reduce expected costs related to a reversal and persuade sceptics to support the reforms for the time being. It seems an obvious strategy in the case when the political scene is dominated by uncertainties about the welfare gains of transition, for instance when past communist reforms resulted in a relatively prosperous inheritance.

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