Schumpeter was mistaken about the owners of stagecoaches

The East European minibus entrepreneurs defeat the railway monopolies

Ivano-Frankivsk bus station in Ukraine

A swarm of entrepreneurs at the Ivano-Frankivsk bus station in Ukraine. The man in the middle walks around shouting "Kolomyia". He is a bus driver searching for more passengers to Kolomyia.

Joseph A. Schumpeter was an Austrian economist born 1883. In 1909, at the age of 26, he was appointed as a professor of economics at the University of Czernowitz (now Chernivtsi, in Ukraine). Here he studied the development of the railway network throughout the Austrian empire. He wrote the pioneer work "The Theory of Economic Development", which contained an elegant and convincing model for the role of the entrepreneur. A central part of the model is that new enterprises with new ways of production will be carried out by new firms, not by firms that already control the productive process. As an example he mentioned that:

According to this theory new ways of production will not be carried out by the same people that already are in control of the production process, but 100 years after he wrote his first major work, Schumpeter's chosen example has backfired: Since 1909 the stagecoach owners have transformed into minibus operators, and all over Eastern Europe the minibus operators are now far more successful than the railways.

For any railway passenger in Eastern Europe it is obvious that the present-day railway system is in decay: Trains are slow and carry few passengers. The railway companies give employment to a host of railway servants that seem to have no other task than standing with a flag in hand when trains pass by.

The railway station in Chisinau

The desolate railway station in Chisinau, Moldavia. The next train for Romania will leave tomorrow afternoon. A total of five trains will depart for other destinations today.

The minibus network offers more connections and transport more passengers than the decaying railway monopolies. All over Eastern Europe there is a disorganized system of buses, minibuses, and maxitaxis with an ever-changing array of bus companies. The main bus routes are well known, but the points of departure and arrival are constantly on the move. The departures change so often that timetables are out of date, etc. The minibus entrepreneurs seem to adapt very well to the changing conditions of the market in a way that the railway monopolies cannot compete with.

Schumpeter regarded the founders of the railway companies as entrepreneurs as opposed to the small-scale owners of stagecoaches, but now it is the small-scale minibus operators that should be regarded as Schumpeterian entrepreneurs. The minibus operators are act as an avant-garde unsatisfied with the known routines. They introduce innovations and try to persuade the customers to use the new goods or services. Here is Schumpeter's list of new ways of production exploited by entrepreneurs:

  1. The introduction of a new good ... or of a new quality of a good
  2. The introduction of a new method of production, ...
  3. The opening of a new market ...
  4. The conquest of a new source of supply of raw materials or half-manufactured goods ...
  5. The carrying out of the new organisation of any industry, like the creation of a monopoly position ... or the breaking up of a monopoly position   Note

Also, according to Schumpeter, the entrepreneurs will appear in swarms. They do so because the appearance of one or a few entrepreneurs facilitates the appearance of others, and these the appearance of more, in ever-increasing numbers. "The swarm-like appearance of entrepreneurs, ... has a qualitatively different effect upon the economic system from that of a continuous appearance evenly distributed in time, ... it does not, ... mean a continuous, ... disturbance of the equilibrium position but a jerky disturbance, ... of a different order of magnitude."

The bus station in Chisniau, Moldavia

The bus station in Chisniau, the capital of Moldavia. Minibuses depart every hour for Bukarest, Romania.

The minibus operators are breaking up a monopoly position, and they appear in swarms. One could say that Schumpeter's model is confirmed by the development since 1909, except that the example should be inverted:

It seems that there is very little government interference in the minibus transport system. There is apparently no public support to keep fares low, and only a few attempts to register the income of the entrepreneurs. You can buy a printed ticket at the bus station, or you can jump on the bus anywhere along the road, pay in cash and not receive a ticket. The driver's income will be taxable in the first situation, but not in the second one.

A Romanian highway

Time table in Marijampole, Lithuania. Migrant workers from Lithuania have a large selection of long-distance buses for all parts of Western Europe. Among the oddly spelled destinations one may recognize Brussels and Düsseldorf in line 1.

The Litauian word "Marsrutai" means minibuses. It is derived from a Russian word "маршрут" and is used all over Eastern Europe. The Russian word, oth the other hand, is a combination of two French words: "Marche" + "route", literally "to go on the road".

At the bus station in Kamyanets-Podilsky

At the bus station in Kamyanets-Podilsky, Ukraine

Railway carriage at the station in Sibiu, Romania

Abandoned railway carriage put on display at the station in Sibiu, Romania

The railway station in Ruse, Bulgaria

Impressive architechture in a nearly empty railway station in Ruse, Bulgaria

Travelling in a Ukrainian bus

One can always meet people when travelling in a bus!

Turkish bus companies

The bus transport system seems rather regulated in Turkey. Here are large bus companies with large, airconditioned buses.

Bus ticket salesmen in Istanbul, Turkey

Bus ticket salesmen in Istanbul, Turkey

Travelling in a Romanian train

Turkish bus conductors serve coffee and a cake for free, very nice!

The university in Chernivtsi

University buildings in Chernivtsi, Ukraine.

The university in Chernivtsi

In 1909-1911, professor Schumpeter worked in a less impressive building one kilometre down the road.


"... es waren, um bei dem einmal gewählten Beispiel zu bleiben, im allgemeinen nicht die Postmeister, welche die Eisenbahnen gründeten",

Source: Joseph Schumpeter 1926: Theorie der wirtschaftlichen Entwicklung, 2. Auflage, Duncker & Humblot, München und Leipzig (3. Auflage, 1931), 2. Kap., S. 100-101.

For a discussion in English:

For longer extracts in German and English: