Behind the Iron Curtain part 34 – Prices

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give a perfect and objective evaluation of anything but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty-eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.

There is a lot of sentiment now about that during the Communist Party’s reign everything was cheaper and thus living was by default better. But that is not something I wish to talk about since it is really difficult to evaluate. Statistics about income from that era are not particularly reliable and one cannot directly compare today’s prices with prices then.

What I want to briefly mention is how wares were actually priced – centrally. Every piece had its selling price printed on the packaging straight from the manufacturer, and it was given. There was no such thing as “a discount”, there was no haggling and no local fluctuation of prices. There was also no sales tax. What item X cost in the center of Prague, it did cost in the smallest mountain village as well, and what it said on the packaging was what you paid.

(One of the biggest cultural shocks during my visit to the USA was local sales taxes. You go to the store, you pick up an item for $ 4.99 as per label, and at the counter, you are asked to cough up 6.00 or some such, which I found, and still do, to be utterly idiotic.)

Not only wares were thus priced, but services and rent were tightly regulated too. I do think that such strict regulations d were a bit too inflexible, but on the other hand, what is happening now is the opposite extreme. For example in Prague near the main tourist routes, some ware can cost several times as much as it does just a few streets away. Predatory landlords are a thing now, thriving on the welfare state that is supposed to help their customers, etc.

I do not think we have found the proper balance yet.

Leave a Reply