Command Economies: Those Crazy Commies
What Is A Command Economy?
A command economy is, in simplest terms, one wherein the leadership makes all of the economic decisions for the nation. This typically means that they decide what is being produced, how their people are being used within the nation, and how goods are distributed.
Commie Roll Call
The largest and certainly most well known examples of command economies are certainly the leftist China and Russia (specifically the now dissolved USSR, as Russia has been lessening the government's strengths over the economy for several years). These are the only two countries that have really rivaled the US in terms of being "superpowers" over the last few decades, and both of them used forms of communism in order to rise to power. However, while these are the best known, there are even better examples for exactly what a command economy is, and these are found in Cuba and especially in North Korea. In both of these countries, and in North Korea especially, the government not only has absolute command over every aspect of its citizens lives, but also pays strict attention to said citizens in order to make sure that they stay in line.
Pros and Commies
The advantages of a command economy are fairly apparent, especially to those who have been in poor financial situations in their lives. Instead of centralizing wealth, a command economy (ideally) would provide for everyone equally, ensuring that everybody had at least a mediocre standard of living. Additionally, since there is no need to profit in a command economy, there are many unprofitable goods produced and distributed to those who need them that wouldn't really be realistic in a market economy. Furthermore, centralized, absolute leadership would theoretically lead to a high efficiency, where perfect use of resources and communication was a ready possibility. However, there are also a plethora of disadvantages to living within a command economy. The truest of these tends to be that the people in control do not actually distribute the resources evenly, but instead use their positions to ensure that certain groups get more. Because of this, the vast masses go without, and their economic model means they cannot do much about it. There is also a lack of consumer goods and innovation, because of the disregard for profit and the lack of competition.
The Big Three: Eco(mmie)nomic Questions
What Will Be Produced?
The question of what will be produced is always the biggest one in a command economy. One of the downfalls of the system is that because of the centralized power structure, there is often a lack of knowledge on what certain regions, groups, and people need. Therefore, the answer tends to come down to bare essentials, namely things such as food, clothing, and metal. Since the same products are (at least supposed) to be distributed equally to everyone, production is often standardized, which can be a pro in the way that the production should be streamlined, but also a con in that certain areas or groups aren't suited to produce what they are told to.
How Will It Be Produced?
Going from the most difficult question comes the easiest to answer in a command economy. In such a system, production is carried out by the masses, and is assigned by the state. This system makes it very simple to make sure every aspect of production is covered by the right number of people, and depending upon how granular the government is, the right kind of people as well. From there, production typically takes one of two extremes. The most typical is extreme mass production, as is evidenced by the many factories of the USSR. However, Mao's idea of family blast furnaces is an example of production being very small scale, so both are options.
For Whom Will It Be Produced?
Ideally, this is actually a question that a command economy typically chooses not to answer. In theory, products are created, and then distributed equally to all people. Of course, since there are people in charge who are able to control the distribution, this tends to not happen exactly according to plan