WMU News

Carnegie official to discuss economic changes

Nov. 13, 1997

KALAMAZOO -- A former Swedish diplomat who has served as an adviser to the Russian government will present his views on the economy of the post-Soviet states in a lecture at Western Michigan University Wednesday, Nov. 19.

Dr. Anders Aslund, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C., will speak at 3 p.m. in Room 3508 of Knauss Hall. His topic will be "Getting Rent-Seeking Under Control: The Final Stage of Transition."

The free talk is part of the WMU Department of Economics' 34th annual guest lecture-seminar series titled "When Is Transition Over? Economic Reform in Post-Communist and Communist Countries." The year-long series focuses on the dramatic economic changes sweeping through Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and China.

Aslund is an expert on the transition of formerly socialist economies to market-based economies. He was an economic adviser to the Russian government from 1991 to 1994, and currently works with the Ukrainian government. A former professor and director of the Stockholm Institute of East European Economies at the Stockholm School of Economics, Aslund has served as a diplomat in Kuwait, Poland, Switzerland and Russia. He has written several well-known opinion pieces for Newsweek, The New York Times, The Financial Times and The International Herald Tribune.

In his address at WMU, he will discuss the economic concept of "rent-seeking" -- efforts to obtain a privilege or benefit outside of market activity. An example of rent-seeking in the U.S. economy is when an industry lobbies for import restrictions, which create extra profits or "rents" for the industry. Economists generally look unfavorably upon rent-seeking because it leads to less efficient outcomes and productivity.

"In transition economies, like those in the former Soviet Union, a myriad of "rents" is up for grabs, including ownership of the productive assets that were owned by the state," said Dr. Annette N. Brown, assistant professor of economics and director of the lecture-seminar series.

The Department of Economics co-sponsors the series with the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo.

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