Dr. Anne Bradley has been on my radio program and in one of her articles, she talks about her first trip to the Soviet Union. Even as a teenager she could see through the attempt to make Russia look more prosperous than it was. In fact, her visit was one of the reasons she became an economist. She ends her article by telling the true story of what happened when Boris Yeltsin visited the United States.
He was newly elected to the Soviet Parliament and the Supreme Soviet. After he visited the Johnson Space Center, he made an unscheduled stop at Randall’s Grocery Store in Houston. This trip to a simple grocery store changed him forever.
Yeltsin roamed the aisles to see the number of products available to every customer. They were offering free cheese samples. He was overwhelmed. He could not believe the bounty before him. Even members of the elite Politburo did not have the choices available to every person who walked into the store.
A reporter captured his comments in an article in the Houston Chronicle. “When I saw those shelves crammed with hundreds, thousands of cans, cartons, and goods of every possible sort, for the first time I felt quite frankly sick with despair for the Soviet people.” He went on to say, “That such a potentially, super-rich country as ours had been brought to a state of such poverty! It is terrible to think of it.”
What a statement from a man who was powerful and well connected politically. He may have had great political power in Russia, but he was powerless to provide to the Russian people what was typical for all Americans. The communist government failed to provide the basic necessities for their people. This is what happens in a centrally controlled economy.
This is a lesson we need to pass on to our children and grandchildren. The abundance of goods on the shelves of that Houston grocery store weren’t provided by the government. They were provided by a free market.