Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
Research Institute of Industrial Economics

No 724: János Kornai’s Contributions to Economic Analysis

Assar Lindbeck ()
Additional contact information
Assar Lindbeck: Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN), Postal: P.O. Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: The publication of János Kornai’s memoirs, By Force of Thought, provides an excellent opportunity to remind ourselves of Kornai’s great contributions to economic research. This paper discusses both his basic research strategy and some of his main research results. Kornai has usually dealt with great, system-oriented issues, and he has been more inspired by real-world observations than by scholarly work by others. The paper also emphasizes that Kornai’s two most celebrated characterizations of real world socialist economies – "shortage economies" and production units with "soft budget constraints" – are analytically closely connected. Kornai also, in his more recent works, regards the centralized political system during communism as the basic explanation for the centralized nature of the economic system in these countries.

Keywords: Socialism; Soft Budget Constraints; Shortage Economy; Economic Centralization

JEL-codes: B24; B31; L10; P20

9 pages, December 3, 2007

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