In the tapestry of human existence, one thread remains ever resilient, weaving through the tumultuous epochs of history—the indomitable spirit of markets. In the face of relentless assaults by the enforcers of socialist regimes, markets persist, their existence intrinsic to the very essence of human nature. In the words of a sagacious observer, “It is the necessary… certain propensity in human nature… to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another.” Such wisdom, enunciated by the pens of earlier sages, embodies an undeniable truth.
In the tumultuous seventy-year experiment of the Soviet state, a colossal endeavor was undertaken to quash these natural inclinations—to stifle the market’s heartbeat. Yet, despite the relentless attempts that included imprisonment, exile, and even death, markets found a way to endure, albeit in diverse guises. The conditions conducive to the birth of markets remained undeterred: private ownership of property, interactions between individuals harboring disparate valuations of goods, and the ceaseless flame of individual will and self-interest.
From these conditions, markets, both legitimate and shrouded in the shadow of illegitimacy, emerged. Whispers in dark corners spoke of a clandestine realm known as the “black market.” Some estimates dared to venture that up to 84 percent of the Soviet populace ventured into its clandestine aisles, procuring goods and services, often through intermediaries known as the “fartsovshiki.” These clandestine channels not only provided sustenance but also, at times, served as a wellspring of livelihood for an astounding twenty million Soviet souls.
Automotive News, in an intrepid exploration of the Soviet automotive world, revealed a startling revelation—60 percent of Soviet denizens entrusted their vehicles to the skilled hands of black-market mechanics, while another 30 percent sought solace in clandestine transactions for gasoline and parts. The unquenchable desire for commodities, it seemed, could not be dammed by the wall of regulations.
One cannot help but ponder whether the Soviet authorities harbored secret desires to extinguish these subterranean markets. For beneath the veneer of the planned economy, it was the black markets that, perhaps unwittingly, served as a safety valve. In the face of periodic scarcities, where the most basic of life’s necessities hung in precarious balance, the alternative—deprivation without recourse—might have unleashed uncontrollable upheaval. Thus, the omnipresent black market provided a modicum of respite, a tenuous thread preventing the tapestry of society from unraveling entirely.
The Soviet experience, as stark as it was, illuminated an elemental truth—an affirmation of man’s inherent capitalist nature. The transition from the shackles of socialism to the embrace of capitalism demanded nothing more than the liberation of human nature itself.
In closing, the battle to expand and safeguard the realm of free markets finds its noblest arsenal in the citadel of morality. In the eyes of the state interventionists, who wield their power, moral arguments stand as their naked adversary. These arguments for private ownership of property, voluntary exchange, and market equilibrium resonate with a clarity that transcends individual interests. The concept that one person may not employ force against another for personal gain is widely comprehended on a private level. Yet, the notion of government-sanctioned redistribution, dressed in the garb of democracy, carries the veneer of legitimacy. The challenge, therefore, lies in the endeavor to convince the masses that morality is not determined by a majority vote, and that, among the manifold structures of human organization, free markets emerge as morally superior, radiant in their innate virtue.