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  • There have been some truly great duos throughout history and pop culture doing everything from

  • solving mysteries to judging baked goods to tracking down an emperor they've accidentally turned into a llama.

  • If we look closer at these pairs, well often find that some of the best ones are a mix of opposites.

  • In fact, their success might even be because theyre so different.

  • We love to see a straightlaced fussbudget deal with an agent of chaos.

  • Or a...well now that I think about it, that one comes up a lot.

  • Take Holmes and Watson, or Ernie and Bert, or any character duo Tina Fey and Amy Poehler

  • bring to life, or even...Bulgaria and Germany!

  • Wait.

  • Ok, so maybe I let my geography nerd brain run a little wild there, but geopolitically,

  • Bulgaria and Germany have a long history!

  • In the early 2020s, they have a close relationship and pass things like cars and precious metals

  • back and forth with relative ease.

  • From a distance, they look like BFFs, but just like in many of our duos, it’s an uneven relationship.

  • Germany is more important to Bulgaria than Bulgaria is to Germany.

  • I’m Alizé Carrère, and this is Crash Course Geography.

  • INTRO

  • Over the last few episodes, weve talked about how power moves to form and maintain countries.

  • And we briefly mentioned how things like the strength of the economy is one aspect that

  • affects the coherence of the state.

  • Economics, or the study of scarcity, decision-making, and how people respond to incentives around

  • resources impacts everyone’s lives, whether were aware of it or not.

  • How we make a living and consume material goods is part of what shapes how we interact with the world.

  • So to understand what makes Bulgaria and Germany such a good pair, particularly at trading

  • goods back and forth, we can use the frameworks of economic geography, which is a branch of

  • human geography concerned with where and how people earn a living.

  • But, our economic activities are also tied with the power systems we live in.

  • So human geographers study both power and economics because understanding our relationship

  • with power and material wealth helps explain human patterns on the global scale -- from

  • how population size is related to economic opportunity, to resource use, to migration

  • trends, to the way our cities are laid out.

  • In geography looking at economics and politics together and studying how they interact is

  • called political economy.

  • Geographers trained in political economy argue that both political and economic power move

  • unevenly across the landscape, and that power shapes the way people work and live.

  • That means we study things like how trade policy impacts where goods are produced and

  • where they are sold, like we saw on the Silk Roads.

  • And as economic geographers, we’d want to understand how wealth was formed in spice-rich

  • places, who actually amassed that wealth and who didn’t in the region, and what political

  • structures, like empires or tribes, reinforced trade patterns and maintained those structures.

  • But there are a lot of people who study this with a lot of different definitions!

  • At its core, economic geography tries to describe the distribution of material wealth in the world.

  • And -- spoiler alert -- that wealth is usually distributed unevenly.

  • As geographers, we want to know why that unevenness exists and understand why people have different

  • economic opportunities.

  • Since the 1990s, Bulgaria’s economy has continued to strengthen, though in the 2020s

  • it’s still less wealthy than Germany and some of its other neighbors.

  • Like all geographers, economic geographers will think spatially about something like wealth.

  • We also think about economic work as being grouped into three main categories.

  • A truly healthy economy needs to have elements of all three economic activities, and they

  • often overlap and exist in the same spaces.

  • In the 2020s, a large chunk of Bulgaria’s economy is a primary economy based on extracting raw goods.

  • Their largest exports to Germany are primary goods, like raw copper ore and other precious metals.

  • Anything that comes from the land, like agriculture, mining, logging, or hunting are all primary activities.

  • And primary production is important because it’s how we get the basic materials we need

  • to live, like food, minerals, and cloth.

  • Every government system has some sort of primary production.

  • But, primary production tends to not generate very much wealth on its own.

  • Like let’s think about that classic geography example, the banana.

  • As we learned way back in episode 1 when we started this journey, the people who grew

  • those bananas didn’t make very much money.

  • But the companies who owned the plantations did.

  • A secondary economy is based on manufacturing or refining those primary goods, which adds

  • value to them and makes a profit for the owner.

  • So the plantation owners didn’t really change the bananas, but they did process and package

  • them and bring them to the US where they could be sold for a lot more money.

  • And in the 2020s, Germany has a booming industrial or secondary economy.

  • There’s a saying in geography: “It’s not enough to have the stuff.”

  • Places with resources often find their wealth is extracted away to other places that make

  • money by processing the raw goods to make tons of other products.

  • But ultimately, it’s the different routes that Germany and Bulgaria have each taken

  • on their economic paths that have helped create their modern day political, economic, and

  • even cultural landscapes.

  • Historically, as manufacturing became easier in North America and Europe during the late

  • 18th and early 19th centuries, the people who owned the factories started to make a

  • lot of money off the labor of those doing the manufacturing work.

  • Around this time is when capitalism started to resemble the system you're probably familiar with today.

  • Capitalism is a political economic system that’s dominated by earning a profit with

  • private business ownership, and where both wages and production are guided by the free market.

  • Now a market isn’t necessarily a physical place.

  • It’s more like a relationship we enter into when buyers and sellers exchange goods and

  • services and negotiate those prices.

  • Like how much someone is willing to pay for Wiener schnitzel, or what the going rate is for a gadulka player.

  • And it’s called a “freemarket, but there are allowances for economic regulation

  • from governments at national and international levels.

  • Though this form of capitalism, known as a mixed capitalist economy, wouldn't be recognized

  • by its most famous proponent, Adam Smith, who mostly talked about it in theory.

  • And there are so many other types, too.

  • For example, Democratic socialism still sells goods and services on the market, but creates

  • buffers and boundaries on how labor is treated.

  • The government is democratically elected, and the fiscal policies they enact are a result

  • of those elections.

  • But, instead of markets being where the cost of goods and services like healthcare or education

  • are determined, the state sets policies that prevent swings in costs or type of service

  • a person can access.

  • The state redistributes wealth from things like taxes to ensure a minimum access to things

  • like health care, education, food and water resources.

  • Many European countries follow some variation on this idea, and a lot of experts would say

  • 21st century Germany is one of them.

  • One contribution geographers have made to political economy, is noting just how variable capitalism is.

  • Capitalism looks different in different places because how markets work depends on how governments

  • facilitate them and regulate them, which tends to shift with different democratic structures.

  • And as a discipline that wants to understand why we see some features in one place but

  • not another, studying capitalism has been a key part of economic geography.

  • So the politics of a place can make a difference in how markets are regulated.

  • Most places have access to at least some natural resources, capable people to do good work,

  • and some way to get their goods and services to the people who want to buy them.

  • But which countries have access to markets is definitely uneven!

  • And how goods can move is a political decision.

  • For instance, how goods have moved through the area that we now call Bulgaria has changed

  • over the years.

  • Throughout the 20th century, Bulgaria followed Germany’s alliances and by the end of World

  • War II found itself behind the Iron Curtain with East Germany.

  • This meant it also became an ally of the Soviet Union, and less directly, a communist state

  • from the mid-1940s until 1990.

  • Communism is an idea that was proposed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles to address

  • the inequalities they saw that grew from capitalist economic practices.

  • Marx wrote about the masses of people doing the work eventually rising up and demanding

  • that wealth be distributed more fairly.

  • In theory, communism is a type of political economy that strives to replace private property

  • and a profit-based economy with public ownership and communal control of all resources.

  • And much like how the capitalism that Adam Smith wrote about doesn’t look like what

  • capitalism has become, the communism that Marx developed doesn't look like what communism turned into either.

  • So yes, there actually was a revolt and civil war in Russia, but it wasn’t what Marx had in mind.

  • It wasn’t led by the working people, and in the end power and wealth didn’t transfer

  • to the laborers.

  • Instead, it went to the leaders of the revolution.

  • There was then a wave of communism that spread out from the Soviet Union in the form of dictatorships,

  • or political systems where one leader has the power and that power is distributed at their discretion.

  • So...pretty much the opposite of what Marx was writing about.

  • One of the places communism spread to at the end of World War II was Bulgaria.

  • Bulgaria became part of the Eastern Bloc and like other communist countries, had what was

  • called a planned economy, meaning that the government planned everything like how much

  • of a good needed to be produced and where it would be produced, along with the prices

  • for goods and wages.

  • They could also prioritize social goals over economic ones.

  • So that means they could decide how many nurses would work in a clinic just based on how many

  • they wanted to have work there, not necessarily because of demand.

  • Bulgaria’s economy during their communist days also relied heavily on primary activities.

  • And even with detailed government planning and control, there was still uneven access

  • to wealth because the decisions were being made in a central place without the will or

  • desires of the people, or signals of supply and demand to guide them.

  • But not all formerly communist states had the same types of economic activity.

  • East Germany, while also communist, had more secondary production.

  • This created a space for more economic productivity.

  • West Germany was even more economically productive than East Germany thanks to international

  • investment and support to create a highly productive capitalist economy to help form

  • a buffer against communism.

  • When both parts of Germany were unified in 1990, the strength of the western economy

  • helped smooth the transition for East Germany.

  • And so, when in 1989 the Soviet Union and its control in the region began to unravel

  • and the Berlin Wall came down, countries like Bulgaria stopped being communist and adopted

  • other political economic systems, in this case, capitalism.

  • In 1990, Bulgaria held democratic elections, meaning that the next leaders were voted in

  • by the people and went through a years long process of transitioning from a “closed

  • market, controlled by the state, to anopenmarket participating in free trade.

  • Which means goods could be bought and sold between any countries with goods to sell,

  • not just the countries the state pre approved.

  • But whether it’s capitalism, socialism, or communism, these economic practices are rarely uniform.

  • Wherever theyre in practice, there are other economies also in practice.

  • In fact, the majority of employed people in the world actually work in what's known as

  • the informal economy, which is the diverse kinds of jobs, businesses, and other economic