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Lesson 5: Transaction Costs – Life in a Soviet Household

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Key Economic Concept:

  • Transaction Costs

Related concepts:

  • Incentives
  • Markets
  • Opportunity Cost
  • Prices
  • Secondary Markets
  • Creation of wealth

Content Standards and Benchmarks (1, 3, 4, 5, 16 and 17):

Standard 1: Students will understand that: Productive resources are limited. Therefore, people cannot have all the goods and services they want; as a result, they must choose some things and give up others.

Benchmarks: Students will know that:

  • Whenever a choice is made, something is given up.
  • The opportunity cost of a choice is the value of the best alternative given up.
  • Choices involve trading off the expected value of one opportunity against the expected value of its best alternative.
  • The choices people make have both present and future consequences.
  • The evaluation of choices and opportunity costs is subjective; such evaluations differ across individuals and societies.
  • Choices made by individuals, firms, or government officials often have long-run unintended consequences that can partially or entirely offset the initial effects of their decisions.

Standard 3: Students will understand that: Different methods can be used to allocate goods and services. People, acting individually or collectively through government, must choose which methods to use to allocate different kinds of goods and services.

Benchmarks: Students will know that:

  • There are different ways to distribute goods and services (by prices, command, majority rule, contests, force, first-come-first-served, sharing equally, lottery, personal characteristics, and others), and there are advantages and disadvantages to each.
  • There are essential differences between a market economy, in which allocations result from individuals making decisions as buyers and sellers, and a command economy, in which resources are allocated according to central authority.
  • Comparing the benefits and costs of different allocation methods in order to choose the method that is most appropriate for some specific problem can result in more effective allocations and a more effective overall allocation system.

Standard 4: Students will understand that: People respond predictably to positive and negative incentives.

Benchmarks: Students will know that:

  • Both positive and negative incentives affect people’s choices and behavior.
  • People’s views of rewards and penalties differ because people have different values. Therefore, an incentive can influence different individuals in different ways.
  • Responses to incentives are predictable because people usually pursue their self-interest.
  • Changes in incentives cause people to change their behavior in predictable ways.
  • Incentives can be monetary or non-monetary.
  • Acting as consumers, producers, workers, savers, investors, and citizens, people respond to incentives in order to allocate their scarce resources in ways that provide the highest possible returns to them.

Standard 5: Students will understand that: Voluntary exchange occurs only when all participating parties expect to gain. This is true for trade among individuals or organizations within a nation, and among individuals or organizations in different nations.

Benchmarks: Students will know that:

  • Exchange is trading goods and services with people for other goods and services or for money.
  • The oldest form of exchange is barter – the direct trading of goods and services between people.
  • People voluntarily exchange goods and services because they expect to be better off after the exchange.

(Note: Standards 16 and 17 are written in reference to market economies; however, they can be approached through comparison / contrast to centrally directed economies like that of the Soviet Union.)

Standard 16: Students will understand that: There is an economic role for government to play in a market economy whenever the benefits of a government policy outweigh its costs. Governments often provide for national defense, address environmental concerns, define and protect property rights, and attempt to make markets more competitive. Most government policies also redistribute income.

Benchmarks: Students will know that:

  • When a price fails to reflect all the benefits of a product, too little of the product is produced and consumed. When a price fails to reflect all the costs of a product, too much of it is produced and consumed. Government can use subsidies to help correct for insufficient output; it can use taxes to help correct for excessive output; or it can regulate output directly to correct for over – or under – production or consumption of a product.
  • Governments provide an alternative method to markets for supplying goods and services when it appears that the benefits to society of doing so outweigh the costs to society. Not all individuals will bear the same costs or share the same benefits of those policies.

Standard 17: Students will understand that: Costs of government policies sometimes exceed benefits. This may occur because of incentives facing voters, government officials, and government employees, because of actions by special interest groups that can impose costs on the general public, or because social goals other than economic efficiency are being pursued.

Benchmarks: Students will know that:

  • Citizens, government employees, and elected officials do not always directly bear the costs of their political decisions. This often leads to policies whose costs outweigh their benefits for society.
  • Incentives exist for political leaders to implement policies that disperse costs wisely over large groups of people and benefit relatively small, politically powerful groups of people.
  • Price controls are often advocated by special interest groups. Price controls reduce the quantity of goods and services consumed, thus depriving consumers of some goods and services whose value would exceed their cost.

Lesson Theme: For the average householder, the consequence of the Soviet Union’s collective choice of a centrally directed economy was the burden of incredibly high transaction costs in the form of time spent searching and queuing for goods and services. Transaction costs can be significant in market economies too, but under the Soviet government system, they became extraordinarily high.

Student Activity:Na Levo” – When Acting Within the Law Is Inconvenient

As students suffer the irritation of long lines and bureaucratic obstinacy at the “Bureau of Production” and the “Bureau of Grades,” before they can even get in the line at the “Bureau of Candy,” they develop an understanding of the willingness of Soviet citizens to engage in transactions na levo – “on the left.” First-hand experience in high transaction costs and black markets is the focus of this 30-45 minute simulation.

Key Points:

  1. Review: In market-based economies, property rights are clearly defined and prices are allowed to move freely in response to changing conditions of demand and supply.
    • This has two effects that help to determine standards of living for citizens:
      • Voluntary exchange (trade, on a small or large scale) is facilitated, and, in fact, encouraged; and
      • Wealth is created.
    • In market-based economies, search and other non-monetary costs of purchasing most goods and services are relatively small.
      • Non-monetary costs, like the time spent searching for a product or waiting in line, are called transaction costs.
      • Market-based economies offer incentives to sellers to reduce transaction costs.
  2. In the USSR, government prevented prices from changing in response to changes in demand or supply.
    • A hallmark of the economy of the Soviet Union was governed and fixed prices in both the labor and other resource markets, and in retail markets for goods and services.
      • In some cases, prices of retail goods remained virtually unchanged for 10 to 15 years at a time.
      • The official price of many goods and services became almost meaningless for purposes of allocating and rationing goods.
    • Consequently:
      • non-monetary costs rose and were more important than monetary costs;
      • the opportunity cost of exchange rose; it was harder to trade and therefore
        • fewer exchanges took place; and
        • cooperation became less likely and less effective.
  3. The full price of consumer goods in the USSR consisted of a low, nominal ruble price plus a high time price for searching and queuing for each good.
    • Knowing where and when goods would arrive became a critical problem to citizens.
    • The average citizen spent many hours outside of work each week queuing in the state stores and farmers’ markets to provide for her family.
    • Waiting lists for items like cars, telephones, and apartments added greatly to the cost of money prices charged.
      • In legal markets, it was not uncommon to wait 15 to 20 years for an apartment, 5 years for a plumber, or 10 years to purchase an automobile.
      • In illegal, or “gray” markets, the price of a used car was greater than the legal market price for a new one because the price was bid up by those not willing to wait for a new one.
      • Many times two and three generations of family had to live together in very small apartments, and divorced couples might live together for years until one found a place to move to.
    • It was common in the Soviet Union to see nearly everyone on the street carrying mesh shopping bags.
      • When a delivery truck pulled up to the curb outside a work place with sausage, cheese, or lemons, workers would grab their bags and stand in line to purchase for family and friends.
      • So great was the uncertainty of obtaining goods that when people saw things for sale, they would purchase for friends – who would return the favor when the opportunity arose.
      • Stories abound of people getting in line and then asking what the line was for.
    • In efficient economies, costs paid by consumers generally become benefits of producers; queuing transaction costs in the Soviet Union created benefits for no one.
  4. Householders were also aware that transaction costs were not equally burdensome to all members of Soviet society.
    • From the perspective of the average consumer, it was clear that the perquisites of position or who you knew, not money, determined access to goods in short supply.
    • The nomenklatura, the communist party members who were approved to hold top management positions in the party and government, did not have to place their names on waiting lists for apartments, vacations, and desired goods.
      • Their wages consisted partly of special coupons to be used in special stores that were closed to the public and guarded by special police.
      • The elite shops carried fresh fruits and vegetables, roasts, chickens, and Armenian cognac and other goods that never appeared in state stores.
  5. Awareness of extremely high transaction costs and of the fact that administrators had the ability to influence the allocation of quality consumer goods helps us to understand two phenomena of planned economies which, with less thought, we might blame on character deficiencies of Soviet citizens: the pervasiveness of both bribery and secondary, or black, markets.
    • When housing, automobiles, vacations, nursery schools, and quality consumer goods are allocated by administrators, it made sense for households to devote many resources to influencing the allocator and trying to gain access to benefits.
      • From the consumers’ point of view, it was far more efficient and less costly to pay money to a regulator to gain access to goods and services than to pay the huge costs of time searching and standing in line.
      • From the point of view of analysis, it is more instructive to regard this as a question of opportunity cost, than as an issue of character.
    • When official regulations governing the allocator’s behavior provided loopholes allowing considerable discretion, it made sense for administrators to use their control rights to improve their own well-being.
    • It should, therefore, not be surprising that gifts, favors, or outright bribery were often necessary to obtain access to goods, services, and resources.
      • Purchasing goods, services, and resources often entailed two payments:
        • a low, nominal price paid into the official accounts, and
        • a higher payment to the allocator.
    • The second result of the long wait for goods, services, and resources, was the development of very effective secondary, or black, markets where business was done “na levo” – on the left; that is, through privately arranged, illegal exchanges.
      • The reality was that in many spheres of Soviet life, there was no legal way that a household could meet its needs. For example:
        • There were no private repair shops for a damaged auto transmission or a burned out oven.
        • The wait for state repair services might be up to two years.
    • Satisfying needs and wants “na levo” was often the only realistic alternative.
      • A friend of a friend could fix it and provide the necessary parts, obtained “somehow” from state channels.
      • To have a concrete floor poured was to go out to a zone of new construction and hitch-hike on a concrete truck and negotiate an informal delivery “na levo.”
      • Drivers of private automobiles rarely went to gasoline stations to buy rationed fuel; instead they would drive to the edge of town where official vehicles and even military fuel trucks would sell fuel “na levo” by the side of the road.
  6. By the 1980s, the informal, private economy had become an essential part of the Soviet system.
    • Practices “on the left” included everything from routine bribery, theft from the state sector, black marketeering, and underground manufacturing to large-scale organized crime.
    • Householders had little choice but to participate in this informal economy if they were to satisfy their most routine needs and wants.
    • Government policies increased the attractiveness of the informal alternative and reinforced the incentives to shun legally sanctioned institutions and practices.
      • In the late 1980s, the Gorbachev government expanded purchasing power by giving firms greater freedom to bid up wages, but productive output remained stagnant – citizens had more money but no more goods were available for them to purchase.
      • In a market-based system, this policy would have caused prices to rise, generally, but the Soviet government held prices constant.
    • The bigger the gap between government regulated prices and the true (market) value of products, the greater the benefit to the allocator of shifting goods out of the official economy and into the black market.
      • Gradually, goods disappeared from the shelves and official production began to fall as goods – and resources – moved into the black market.
    • Wage levels were also officially regulated and were well below the value of workers to a firm.
      • In order to keep workers, managers found ways of paying workers in-kind, with various goods.
      • The custom of taking goods home from the factory soon turned to routine, outright theft.

Conclusion: On the eve of the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was apparent that the persistence of incredibly high transaction costs had taken its toll. The planned economy was characterized by increasingly poor performance, the accountability of every level of economic organization appeared to be compromised, and the resulting incentives had generated extraordinary levels of non-compliance and corruption.


Activity Lesson #5: “Na Levo” – When Acting Within the Law Is Inconvenient

Demonstration Video

Lesson Overview: After diligently producing doodles, students suffer the irritation of long lines and bureaucratic obstinacy at the “Bureau of Production” and the “Bureau of Records, ” before they can even get into the line at the “Bureau of Candy.” In the process, they develop an appreciation of the willingness of Soviet citizens to engage in transactions na levo – “on the left.” The time spent in slowly creeping lines in front of unresponsive bureaucrats also clearly illustrates why transaction costs are also referred to as “dead-weight costs.”

Economic Concept: transaction costs

Economics Content Standards:

Standard 3: Students will understand that: Different methods can be used to allocate goods and services. People, acting individually or collectively through government, must choose which methods to use to allocate different kinds of goods and services.

Benchmarks: Students will know that:

  • There are different ways to distribute goods and services (by prices, command, majority rule, contests, force, first-come-first-served, sharing equally, lottery, personal characteristics, and others), and there are advantages and disadvantages to each.
  • There are essential differences between a market economy, in which allocations result from individuals making decisions as buyers and sellers, and a command economy in which resources are allocated according to central authority.
  • Comparing the benefits and costs of different allocation methods in order to choose the method that is most appropriate for some specific problem can result in more effective allocations and a more effective overall allocation system.

Standard 4: Students will understand that: People respond predictably to positive and negative incentives.

Benchmarks: Students will know that:

  • Both positive and negative incentives affect people’s choices and behavior.
  • People’s views of rewards and penalties differ because people have different values. Therefore, an incentive can influence different individuals in different ways.
  • Responses to incentives are predictable because people usually pursue their self-interest.
  • Changes in incentives cause people to change their behavior in predictable ways. Incentives can be monetary or non-monetary.
  • Acting as consumers, producers, workers, savers, investors, and citizens, people respond to incentives in order to allocate their scarce resources in ways that provide the highest possible returns to them.

Materials:

  • scrap paper with 4″ x 4″ squares drawn on each sheet, or pieces of scrap paper cut to 4″ x 4″
  • “Doodle” transparency
  • several bags of small pieces of candy – starbursts, chocolate kisses, bite size
  • candy bars, etc.
  • a few “better” prizes for bureaucrats
  • tent signs: Bureau of Production, Bureau of Records, Bureau of Candy
  • overhead projector
  • squares of yellow (or any color) paper
  • several markers
  • index cards
  • ruler
  • a small box, no lid – (shoe box size)
  • a large box with a lid (the size reams of paper come in)
  • ruble cards (copy on colored paper, not yellow)

Time required: 1-1.5 class periods

Assessment:

In the United States, the Post Office and Department of Motor Vehicles are frequent subjects of complaints from American consumers. In fact, a frequent “joke” involves the clerk who takes a break just as you finally get to the head of the line.

  1. List three ways in which the unresponsive Motor Vehicle clerk is similar to the Ministers in our classroom simulation.
  2. Using your knowledge of incentives, explain why the motor vehicle clerk responded to you in the manner of the Minister of Production rather than in the manner of a counter clerk at your favorite store. (Use the word “incentives” in your answer.)
  3. What transaction costs do you bear because of this system of incentives?
  4. What actions are you likely to take to avoid these transaction costs? (Teachers may want to give students a hint here to help them think about substitutes for driving. Students will quickly identify that part of the frustration comes from knowing that there are few substitutes and that those are inconvenient. However, imagine a person living in a large city, who might choose not to drive at all and to use the bus or a taxi. Another possibility is that some people, not all, will choose to drive without a valid license or vehicle registration and run the risk of getting caught.)
  5. Are your avoidance tactics likely to change the behavior of the motor vehicle clerk? Why or why not? (No. The clerk is not the entrepreneur, or the “residual claimant,” and the motor vehicle department is not run for profit. In other words, the clerk has no incentive to change behavior.)

Procedures:

  1. Choose three students to play the roles of the bureaucrats:
    • the Minister of Production,
    • the Minister of Records, and
    • the Minister of Candy.

    Position the ministers in the front of the room, relatively close together. Place a sign on each minister’s desk and hand each the supplies of his office:

    • Minister of Production:
      • a large quantity (not counted) of yellow squares (about 2″x2″) and
      • a ruler
    • Minister of Records:
      • a number of colored markers
    • Minister of Candy:
      • a large pile, bag, or bucket of candy.

    Explain that the Ministers are among the more privileged individuals in your country and that they are trying to earn money to shop in the Elite Store. They will be paid 20 rubles for each round of the activity, starting now.

    (Pay each minister .)
    (The Elite Store is at the teacher’s desk on which are prominently displayed a better class” of products: cans of pop, large candy bars, free tardy passes, free extra credit points, etc. “Prices” of the items should be posted. The prices should be somewhere in the area of 15-40 rubles, so that ministers can get the items but not too easily.)
  2. Display the doodle on the overhead and explain that citizens in your country earn their income producing Doodles. (Remove the transparency while you give the rest of the instructions.)
  3. Explain that your society works in the following way:
    • Workers are paid 10 rubles when they are hired.
    (Distribute rubles to workers.)
    • Workers produce doodles to the specifications of the Production Ministry and take their finished products there to be checked by the Minister. (Distribute 4×4 production blanks.)
    • Workers then go to the Ministry of Records to receive credit for their work, which translates into yellow coupons that allow them to purchase goods and services.
    • Workers with yellow coupons (and enough money) may purchase candy from the Ministry of Candy, for the price of 2 rubles / piece of candy.
  4. Using the overhead, show students the work specifications that the Production Ministry has provided.
    • Point out the 6 components of the doodle on the overhead transparency. (gray rectangle, white rectangle, circle, 3 lines)
    • Hand out job descriptions to the Ministers and ask them to read while you answer any questions from the workers.
    • Allow students to begin working. (Students do not need rulers. They may use the edges of books, etc. The point of the exercise is not for them to engage in painstaking work, but to produce doodles relatively quickly so that they get in line and begin to suffer the frustration of the ministry bottlenecks.)
    • While the workers are busy, direct the ministers to their “offices” and answer any questions they may have.
  5. Once students have their doodles finished, they must take them to the Bureau of Production. There, they must wait in line until the minister has time to see them and to correct their papers.
    • Papers that do not meet the Minister’s standard will be returned to the worker and must be corrected.
    • Papers that do meet the Minister’s standard will be collected. The Minister will give the “worker” a yellow square of paper (about the size of a post-it note).
  6. Workers then take their yellow squares to the Ministry of Records. The Minister (painstakingly) records on an index card the following information about the worker:
    • full name
    • parents’ full names
    • complete address (both addresses if students split residence between divorced parents)
    • date
    • time of day
    • number of yellow squares presented at this time
    • Note that only the Minister himself may record this information.
    • When he has finished, he will draw a star on the worker’s yellow square with a colored marker.
  7. Workers who have yellow squares with stars may go to the Bureau of Candy to buy treats from the minister. One yellow square and 2 rubles must be exchanged for each piece of candy.

Set Up Directions for the teacher:

  1. Set the three ministers’ offices in the front of the room, facing away from the overhead (so that it is difficult and awkward for the Minister of Production to see the prototype he is using to judge workers’ products. You want to slow down his checking of the work so that a long line forms in front of him.
  2. Keep the three ministers’ offices close to one another so that the ministers may interrupt their work to talk to each other and so that the lines of waiting citizens can interact with each other.
  3. Don’t take measures to prevent “cheating the system;” in fact, you can make it easier by:
    • leaving markers and yellow paper around the room – seemingly accidentally
    • arranging student desks so that the lines of workers snake through them
    • emphasizing to the ministers that they get paid if they come to work and try to do their jobs – you will not keep a count of materials or of work products collected, etc.
    • call a minister from his office from time to time to interrupt his work;
    • announce a break for ministers, and if they start to pick up their supplies, instruct them to leave their materials in their offices;
    • to “speed up” things in response to citizen complaints, have the Minister of Production throw the completed “products” on the floor by his office, and tell him that you will collect them from time to time. Each time you collect the finished products, dump them into a large box that you place somewhere in the back of the room.
    • place the Minister of Candy’s stash of candy in another part of the room, so that he must get out of his chair and walk across the room to get each order.
  1. Plan the timing of the activity so that the bell rings long before most students can get through the lines. Agree to continue the activity or to play another round on the next class day.
    (Alternately, allow the first production round to last only about 10 minutes. Stop the activity well before everyone has had a chance to get through the lines, and direct all students back to their seats.)

    • Let the ministers buy items from the Elite Store.
    • Ask if students understand the game and whether they have any comments or questions. Act surprised at their complaints.
    • Admonish the students! Obviously this is their problem because you can clearly see that the ministers are doing their job. Clearly, the students have not made an efficient line, or are not giving their information to the minister in an organized way.
    • (Note: Consumer complaints in the Soviet Union were routinely treated in this manner. The consumer was blamed for using the product inappropriately or having no scientific basis for his complaint.)
  2. Pay the ministers again and play a second round. Allow this round to go on a little longer and observe what workers do to get around the system. Anticipate that they might:
    • make their own yellow squares by taking paper and markers left around the room
    • take the discarded work products and try to reuse them
    • find ways to “cut” the lines
    • bribe the bureaucrats, either for extra yellow squares or to buy things for them in the Elite Store
  3. End the activity and debrief.Debriefing Questions:
    • What transaction costs (non-monetary costs) did you bear in order to obtain goods and services in this economy? (standing in line, frustration, etc.)
    • Transaction costs are sometimes referred to as “dead-weight” costs; that is the cost to the consumer of waiting in line was of no benefit to the producer. No one was made better off by the consumer bearing this cost. Can you think of other “dead-weight” transaction costs that people in the Soviet Union paid?
    (Search costs are dead-weight costs. The time and energy it takes a consumer to find products that cost him and no benefit to the seller. In fact, in market economies, sellers try to reduce consumers’ search costs by advertising.)
    • Was the time spent on the doodles a transaction cost?
      (No – this was production, and the opportunity cost of the time you spent producing a doodle resulted in a benefit for you – the income you earned and the candy you eventually bought.)
    • Comment on your perception of the transaction costs and the price (money cost).
    • In your opinion, was one more burdensome than the other? If so, which one and why?
    • Was there anything you could do to reduce the money cost (price)?
    (No – there’s no competitor, only the one seller – the bureau of Candy)
    • Was there anything you could do to reduce the transaction costs? Explain.

    (Did students cheat, or enter into “black market” transactions?)

    • Did you? Why or why not?
    • In comparison to your experience shopping in the U.S., did you find the Ministry of Candy more or less responsive to customers’ needs, wants, and desires?
      • Why do you think that is the case?
    • What incentives face the Minister of Candy? Use your knowledge of the incentives to explain why he responded (or didn’t respond) to you as he did?
    (The minister faces no profit or loss that depends on how he treats the consumers. His rewards come from the planners and he has no reason to care about the consumers.)
    • How did you feel about the economic planner (teacher) blaming the consumers for the inefficiencies of the ministers? How did the planner’s response affect the ministers’ behavior? Were the incentives changed in such a way as to encourage more responsiveness to the consumers?
    (No, if anything, the ministers were reinforced in their lack of responsiveness to the citizens.)
    • What incentives face the owner of a small candy store in our economy?
    (The candy store owner is responsible for the profit or loss of his business. If he doesn’t respond to consumers, he will not make a profit.)
    • How do those incentives influence his treatment of you as a customer?
    (Teacher note: Emphasize this question as it builds the transfer skills necessary for students to apply their experience in the simulation to the assessment question. Help them to consciously make comparisons, to focus on “What’s the same?” and “What’s different?”)
    • What are the benefits of engaging in legal market transactions in our economy?
    • What are the benefits of engaging in illegal (black market, bribery, theft, etc.) transactions in our economy? (In other words, what benefits do you give up if you choose not to participate in illegal activities?)
    • How does the presence of high transaction costs, as in our classroom simulation, change the opportunity cost of engaging in illegal markets?
    • Offer an explanation, using the concepts of cost and incentives that explains the willingness of many, if not most, Soviet citizens to participate in illegal transactions like black markets and/or bribery, or even theft.
    (Note: Offering an explanation is not the same as offering a justification or excusing such behavior!)

Student Handouts

Roll Cards for Bureaucrats

Minister of Production

You are head of all production that goes on in your country. Workers bring things they have produced to you for inspection. On the overhead behind you is a prototype or model of the product currently being made. It is your job to check the products workers bring to you to make sure that they conform to the prototype.

The government planners will ask you to check each of the following:

  • Is it the correct size? (measurements must be within .5″ of the model)
  • Are straight lines straight and curved lines appropriately curved?
  • Are lines the proper width?
  • Are shaded areas uniform?
Are all elements of the design included? (Please count to make sure all 6 are there.)

It is strongly suggested that you keep this list in front of you, and go down through each question as you check each product.

  • Take your time and measure. If measurements are more than .5″ larger or smaller than the model, instruct the worker to fix the doodle and then get back in line.

You will be paid by the economic planning commission if you do your work carefully and pay attention to detail. There is no required number of products; the important thing is that you check each one carefully. Please take your time.

Speed is not a requirement of your job. You may take breaks as you wish, to consult with other ministers (who are your friends) or just to rest. You may consult the economic planners (represented by your teacher) if you have questions or are uncertain.

If you accept a finished product, collect it from the worker and give him/her a yellow square. (Don’t bother to count the yellow squares; that’s not your job – checking production is. If you run out of yellow squares, just ask the planner for more.)

In addition to your pay of 20 rubles, you will be given elite status, so that you may shop in the Elite Store. Please feel free to visit the store on your breaks to look at the merchandise.


Minister of Records

You are, essentially, the pay master for your country. Workers bring yellow squares to you as proof that they have produced needed goods and services. It is your job to record their efforts and to provide the verification that turns their yellow squares into income they may spend at the government stores.

\When a worker comes to you with a yellow square, the government planners require you to record the following about the worker in question:

  • full name
  • parents’ full names
  • complete address (both addresses if students split residence between divorced parents)
  • date
  • time of day
  • number of yellow squares presented at this time

You may write one record on each side of a single index card.

It is strongly suggested that you keep this list in front of you, so that you don’t miss any information. Please keep the cards alphabetized at all times, as the economic planners may come by to see them.

You will be paid by the economic planning commission if you do your work carefully and pay attention to detail. There is no requirement that you complete records in any particular length of time; the important thing is that you record the information carefully and keep your records well-organized.

Speed is not a requirement of your job. You may take breaks as you wish, to consult with other ministers (who are your friends) or just to rest. You may consult the economic planners (represented by your teacher) if you have questions or are uncertain.

When you have finished a worker’s record, take his yellow square and draw a 5-pointed star in the center of the square. (You should find plenty of markers in your office. Should you run out, just ask the economic planner for more.)

In addition to your pay of 20 rubles, you will be given elite status, so that you may shop in the Elite Store. Please feel free to visit the store on your breaks to look at the merchandise.


Minister of Candy

You are in charge of the distributing the goods and services citizens want. Workers bring their income to you if they choose to buy candy. Candy sells for 1 yellow-square-with-a-star per piece.

When a worker comes to you with his income, it is your job to sell him the goods he wants. Please take the following steps:

  • Look carefully to make sure the yellow square has a star. (The shape and color of the star are not your concern.)
  • Collect the yellow square and put it carefully in your money box.
  • Ask the consumer why he wants the candy.(Please note the names of consumers who give an answer other than “to eat,” or “hunger,” for later investigation.)
  • Give a piece of candy to the worker.
  • Shake hands with the consumer and congratulate him/her on his fine purchase.

It is strongly suggested that you do not keep the candy on your office desk – a closed box would be a better choice. The ministers do not want people to become greedy as a result of seeing huge piles of products.

You will be paid by the economic planning commission if you do your work carefully and pay attention to detail. There is no requirement that you sell any particular amount of candy; the important thing is that you carefully inspect the yellow squares before you collect them, and that you store the merchandise carefully.

Speed is not a requirement of your job. You may take breaks as you wish, to consult with other ministers (who are your friends) or just to rest. You may consult the economic planners (represented by your teacher) if you have questions or are uncertain.

Do not worry about the supply of candy. Should you run out, just ask the economic planner for more.)

In addition to your pay of 20 rubles, you will be given elite status, so that you may shop in the Elite Store. Please feel free to visit the store on your breaks to look at the merchandise.

Doodle Prototype

Note that there are 6 separate elements of the doodle.

Entire doodle approximately 4″ x 4″

Gray rectangle is approximately 2″ x 2.5″

White rectangle is approximately 1″ x 1.5″

20 Ruble card 20 Ruble card
1   1   1   1   1   1   1   1   1   1   1 1   1   1   1   1   1   1   1   1   1   1
1   1   1   1   1   1   1   1   1   1   1 1   1   1   1   1   1   1   1   1   1   1
10 Ruble card 10 Ruble card
1       1       1       1       1 1       1       1       1       1
1       1       1       1       1 1       1       1       1       1
10 Ruble card 10 Ruble card
1       1       1       1       1 1       1       1       1       1
1       1       1       1       1 1       1       1       1       1
10 Ruble card 10 Ruble card
1       1       1       1       1 1       1       1       1       1
1       1       1       1       1 1       1       1       1       1
10 Ruble card 10 Ruble card
1       1       1       1       1 1       1       1       1       1
1       1       1       1       1 1       1       1       1       1
10 Ruble card 10 Ruble card
1       1       1       1       1 1       1       1       1       1
1       1       1       1       1 1       1       1       1       1
10 Ruble card 10 Ruble card
1       1       1       1       1 1       1       1       1       1
1       1       1       1       1 1       1       1       1       1