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Secrecy, Fear and Transaction Costs: The Business of Soviet Forced Labour in the Early Cold War

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  • Harrison, Mark

    (University of Warwick)

Abstract

In 1949 the Cold War was picking up momentum. The Soviet state had entered its most secretive phase. The official rationale of secrecy was defense against external enemies. One of the Gulag’s most important secrets was the location of its labour camps, scattered across the length and depth of the Soviet Union. As this secret was guarded more and more closely, the camps began to drop out of the Soviet economic universe, losing the ability to share necessary information and do business with civilian persons and institutions without disclosing a state secret: their own location. For some months in 1949 and 1950, the Gulag’s camp chiefs and central administrators struggled with this dilemma without achieving a resolution. This episode teaches us about the costs of Soviet secrecy and raises basic questions about how secrecy was calibrated.

Suggested Citation

  • Harrison, Mark, 2011. "Secrecy, Fear and Transaction Costs: The Business of Soviet Forced Labour in the Early Cold War," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 47, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  • Handle: RePEc:cge:wacage:47
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    File URL: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/research/centres/cage/manage/publications/47.2011_harrison_revised.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Mark Harrison, 2005. "The Fundamental Problem of Command: Plan and Compliance in a Partially Centralised Economy," Comparative Economic Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Association for Comparative Economic Studies, vol. 47(2), pages 296-314, June.
    2. Harrison, Mark, 2013. "Accounting for Secrets," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 73(04), pages 1017-1049, December.
    3. Andrei Markevich, 2007. "How Much Control is Enough? Monitoring and Enforcement under Stalin," Working Papers w0110, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
    4. Gregory, Paul R. & Schröder, Philipp J.H. & Sonin, Konstantin, 2011. "Rational dictators and the killing of innocents: Data from Stalin's archives," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 34-42, March.
    5. Harrison, Mark, 2011. "Forging success: Soviet managers and accounting fraud, 1943-1962," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 43-64, March.
    6. Rose-Ackerman, Susan, 1986. "Reforming Public Bureaucracy through Economic Incentives?," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 2(1), pages 131-161, Spring.
    7. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2000. "The Contributions of the Economics of Information to Twentieth Century Economics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1441-1478.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Mark Harrison & Inga Zaksauskienė, 2016. "Counter-intelligence in a command economy," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 69(1), pages 131-158, February.
    2. Harrison, Mark, 2013. "Accounting for Secrets," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 73(04), pages 1017-1049, December.
    3. Harrison, Mark, 2017. "Secrecy and State Capacity: A Look Behind the Iron Curtain," Economic Research Papers 269312, University of Warwick - Department of Economics.
    4. Miller, Marcus & Smith, Jennifer C., 2015. "In the shadow of the Gulag: Worker discipline under Stalin," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 531-548.

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