In the late 1970s Todd took a historian's approach to understanding the dynamics of the USSR. By measuring what he could and studying reports and stories, he presented a picture of a society near collapse. From the end of WWII and through the 1960s, the USSR had been able to raise living standards, but in the 1970s it was no longer able to do so. This was a result of the tradeoff between raising living standards and maintaining political control. The Soviet Union could build new cities, but none would have more than half a million people, lest they become political problems. Each city could have one book store associated with its one university. The USSR couldn't afford to give every family an automobile, not because it couldn't produce the cars, but because automobiles make it harder to impose travel restrictions. Soviet productivity was actually rising, but it had to be channeled into politically safe areas like science, certain arts, athletics or the military.
In 1979 his prediction of an upcoming collapse seemed ridiculous to many, but Todd's estimate of 10-15 years before the fall was not all that far off the mark. In many respects it is a shame that this book didn't get more public notice.