I thought this article interesting - the hypothesis that communist countries pursued a sort of cargo cult economic policy. Since they did not really understand economics (and as communist countries have banned many of the most important processes for economic growth), communist leaders tried to emulate successful western nations by copying high-profile bits of their economy. For example, since Western nations were prosperous and had early on built big steel industries, communist leaders decided that building big steel industries would make them prosperous.
It falls somewhat short as a framework for explaining communist economies, but I do think that this cargo cult mentality was an important part of their thinking and even is a part of progressive thinking today. After all, if you willfully deny classical economic theory as well as the power of individual action and private initiative, you have to fill in the blanks somehow.
High speed rail and mass transit strike me as classic modern examples -- great cities of the world have large mass transit systems so therefore if our city builds a rail system we will become great.