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TRAC
Interview Transcript

Sergei Kapitsa   (cont)
Interviewer:  In what year?

Mr.  Kapitsa:  That was 1979, something like that, '80 maybe.  And Leontieff had just completed a study of the world economy using his networks, his matrix methods, that was recognized by the Nobel Prize.  It was a very interesting conversation.  I was sitting just opposite him, and next to me was sitting Zamcev at this lunch, and I asked her, "Wow, it would be great Leontieff on television."  So he said, "It's a good idea."  He was always so very diplomatic.  And then I got to thinking about what I'm going to talk to Leontieff about, and then I said, no, maybe you could join us.  I think you could be much better party for such a conversation.  Oh yes, but if we do that, it has to be authorized.  But he's an advisor to Brezhnev, the head of the whole government.  And I asked him, "Now whom do you think it will be worth authorizing with."  Most say Latvin, now Latvin was the head of the television; also a Brezhnev man.  By that time, lunch had been finished and we were moving over to the drawing room for cognac and coffee.  I walked out, got immediately on telephone to Latvin, told him about the whole thing.  He was also diplomatic and said, "Well, if Zamcev thinks it's worth the effort, go ahead."  So I came back, surprisingly to him may I say, and got the authorization from Latvin himself.

And after that it was a question of timing, because that was on a Wednesday.  On Friday evening, Leontieff was leaving for Leningrad.  I had one day.  That day, the Thursday,  they were busy, so we could only shoot I think from one to two on Friday.  So I immediately made arrangements and we had to shoot in the studio.  We had all the necessary equipment and the best place to go.

 And on Thursday, a friend of mine, Schaumburg, with whom we played tennis here, I called him over here--he's an economist, he worked for Zamcev in those days.  Now, explain to me everything that really matters in world economy today.  But be brief.  We spent all Thursday playing tennis and being briefed on the economy.  The next day I went to Zamcev's place where they had a sort of press conference, and after that, we had to leave for the studio.  It was an hour's drive through Moscow in the middle of the summer.  And I was sure that Leontieff would have a car attached to him, and you know these grand limousines that carted him around, but neither of them had a car.  And I had a miserable way of two cars in those days; this was my wife's car, a rather derelict car.  So I put these two great economists in this car and I had to drive all through Moscow in the middle of the summer.  The traffic wasn't as bad as it is today, but still it was a hell of a job.

 I never used to go to theater in my own car.  I used to take a taxi, and that would be the easiest thing, but taxis were not available at that moment, so I have to take them.  Discussing what we're going today to talk about.  We arrived ten minutes before the deadline and then decided that we should go and have a cup of coffee.  We went to the Coffee Cup, and Leontieff was looking very miserable and crestfallen and looking like a hungry cat at all the nice things and the professor.  I said, "Maybe you would like to have something to eat."  "Oh, yes," he said, "I missed my breakfast this morning."  He was low on sugar, you see.  And he had something to eat, and then we went and taped for an hour and five minutes, I remember, discussing world economy.

 They were absolutely brilliant, these two gentlemen.  They exactly know how and why, what they can, and how it should be said.  And Leontieff then developed an image, a metaphor, to which he came back many times, that the real breakthrough was, he was speaking of having elements of a market economy--that you cannot control it all through central power.  And Zavcev also was sort of in a very sort of way, but doing it very artfully, he was agreeing with this point.

 And Leontieff--he developed the image, he says that the role of government in this case is like the helmsman on a sailing ship.  You have to control the sails and your rudder to keep the boat running--the ship running in the right direction, but it will be fueled by the forces of the market.  That otherwise, if there was no control over the ship by the helmsman, it would go wherever the wind would take it.  And he developed this idea in a very skillful manner, and it's a very good model, I must say, of the interaction of the government and the State and the free market.

 And that was shown twice in the huge cycle.  We got about five thousand letters, including many letters denouncing the whole effort as undermining the Marxist ideal, and we were accused of sort of ideological crimes of the worst nature.  But I was speaking to the advisor of Brezhnev, to the top man in our country, speaking to one of the foremost economists in the world, who spoke perfect Russian--that also helped--discussing these most pressing matters that were facing our country those days, ten years before anything started happening.  So there you see.  And it was authorized and supported at the highest level you can imagine.

 

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RAO > Catalgoues > Transcripts > TRAC > Sergei Kapitsa p.7

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