And this is why I tend to keep answering these threads. The common misunderstanding among the Western audience, drilled into them by decades of indoctrination is that "our financial system is better at everything".
It is not, no by a long shot. When it comes to long term projects, our system requires massive government intervention to function. Consider all the large infrastructure projects in US. All of them are government-funded, in one way or another. Free market requires immediate response, rather than long term viability. Long term viability without immediate response is judged as a failure by free market. This is the real and tangible weakness of free market economy.
Totalitarian systems on the other hand excel at long term projects. Your rather strange claim of "correlation, not causation" about the issues stated above shows your lack of even basic understanding of relevant historical facts. Well documented example: during Holodomor USSR was selling approximately five million tons of grain every year to foreign countries. Essentially all of the money gained from these exports were used in two ways:
1. Purchase of raw materials needed for industrialization of the entire country. Specifically steel, copper, various other raw elements needed to electrify and connect the world's largest country. Essentially all of these raw materials were used to build electric and telephone lines, railroads, roads and so on. Massive amount of political convicts was doing the actual work, which was brutal and lethal. And also necessary to uplift the country.
2. Purchase of technology and technological know-how. Vast majority of locomotives on the newly build USSR railroads for example, where of German origin. Many of technological designs were purchased for build of their own versions, and massive factories were erected across the nation in the process of industrialization.
Would this kind of operation be possible in a free market economy? Of course not. Free market would not have allowed for massive losses incurred in the construction process. This kind of build up required a totalitarian system, because that kind of buildup is what totalitarian system EXCELS at. It enables exhaustive, rather then efficient use of resources, which is often necessary to build up entire country from complete destruction. The usage is not efficient because much of resources used in this process is destroyed or damaged beyond repair. This ranges from people themselves (tens of millions dead reasons ranging from hunger to dying from exhaustion working on roads) to locations damaged beyond repair for a long time as a byproduct of industrialization.
It is important to realize that our system is weaker in terms of economic viability in certain aspects to totalitarianism, and understand that we need to compensate for these flaws, typically through mix of regulation and incentives. This has been largely understood by planners in the post WW2 and Cold War West, which erected strong government-backed projects to build excellent infrastructure at a staggering loss, but protected from destructive short term viability judgment of free market by government's backing.
Free market on the other hand excels at utilizing the already built infrastructure to its fullest potential by removing inefficiencies. This is why our system was so much more efficient than that of USSR - they had a very strong build-up, but totalitarian system does not allow for easy optimizations to the already initiated process. Free market system on the other hand excels at this. In the end, they themselves realized it in the 1970s and 1980s and tried to correct it by introducing some reforms to enable something remotely resembling a free competition between large governmental corporations. However the lack of necessary entrepreneur culture in the nation combined with the requirement for maintaining strong totalitarian control over everyone essentially doomed these attempts to failure.
On the last note, you seem to think that Soviet technology was somehow "lower tech". You could not be more wrong in general, unless you were of course talking some particular tech instead of in general. They had the fields in which they excelled far better then West and fields where we excelled far better then they did. As a result, this argument could be made by both sides. One good example of this is the very visible debacle with F-35, which is attempting to implement technology that was lifted from MiG-29s acquired by Luftwaffe in merging of Germany. Said technology (HMD + illumination radar able to track at angle in which pilot looks) has existed on soviet planes since the 80s. It took best minds in US 15 years to even try to get it to work to the similar degree in this decade, 30 years later. They were also known to be far more advanced in some aspects of aerospace technology, vastly superior in radar technology and so on. Reading Jane's during the years after USSR breakdown was really interesting, because they had a lot of cases where best Western specialists would be allowed to take a glimpse at what USSR had, and the evaluation tended to be "they're 20 years behind us in this, and 20 years ahead of us in this". There are countless of examples of this, ranging from their known superiority in missile avionics (AIM-120 vs R-77 for example) to their unique use of P2P logic in weapon systems (P-700)
As I recall it, the "russian tech is low tech" propaganda message was spread after the defection of Belenko to Japan, and initial evaluation of his MiG-25 aircraft which used vacuum tubes instead of transistors . Latter evaluations had a completely different note after the actual functionality and purpose of the aircraft became clear (vacuum tubes were used because they were far more tolerant to extreme altitude conditions that aircraft was designed to operate in and did not require separate climate control as transistor-based electronics would have).