Monday, January 28, 2008

Russian Beauties

Apparently the trade-off between Communist tyranny and open markets is being stuck in a drab factory job in some backwater town versus being able to rocket on your cheekbones and backhand to fame and fortune in the West. Or so says Anne Applebaum:
And what open markets do for beautiful women they also do for other sorts of genius. So, cheer up next time you see a Siberian blonde dominating male attention at the far end of the table: The same mechanisms that brought her to your dinner party might one day bring you the Ukrainian doctor who cures your cancer or the Polish stockbroker who makes your fortune.
A good reminder why I generally dislike her columns -- interesting premises devolving into horribly oversimplified paeans to the promise of freedom and markets. Not that freedom and markets are bad (or that Communist tyranny was good), but isn't this a preposterous and unnecessary formulation? Does it also account for the French broker who loses your fortune? Or the multi-national pharmaceutical company who won't sell drugs at discount to third world countries?

2 comments:

Robin said...

I'm not sure Applebaum writes paeans to free markets the way Tom Friedman does. She's more excited about Soros-style open societies. IT's not so much a question of capital leaving Cold-War countries that amazes her, it's the people. Her chapter on Joseph Brodsky in Gulag is one of the most powerful. She basically thinks the Soviet system deemed Brodsky's talent a crime, not just the content of his poetry.

Ritik Dholakia said...

Well, you probably know better than I do. I've read her in Slate and the Washington Post, and I thought that the strange turn of this particular article was the attribution of this freeing of "talent" to open markets, specifically, and not just open societies. That in the Soviet Union, there was "no market for female beuaty."

It seems a frivolous answer to an actually interesting question, whose answer lies more closely in the fact that the Soviet Union was "highly suspicious" of unusual beauty and talent. The lack of opportunity for beauties to shine due less to the lack of a market for fashion than a social ethic that (in principle) placed no premium on exceptional beauty.