He was educated at Kiev University and Kharkov Engineering Economics Institute.
After his graduation in 1933 he worked as an engineer in factories. With over fifteen years of experience behind him, he was appointed chair of economic and organization of machine building industry at the Kharkov Institute in 1947, where he remained until his retirement. Liberman earned his doctorate in economic science in 1957, and that same year published an article entitled “The Planning of Profit in Industry.”
Liberman’s ideas on making the economy of the Soviet Union more productive and efficient were noticed by mathematician and economist Vasily Nemchinov. Nemchinovconvinced Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev to allow Liberman to air his views on the economy, and in 1962 an article appeared in Pravda under the title “Plan, Profit, and Bonus.” Liberman suggested moving away from central planning by giving factory management more responsibility for economic planning. The role of central planners would be limited to setting objectives for production volume and delivery schedules, leaving the rest to local management. Liberman’s other ideas included using profit, rather than output, as a measurement of successful management, using supply and demand to establish prices, and establishing direct links between state businesses and regions.
Officially retired in 1963, Liberman continued to teach and develop his ideas at the University of Kharkov. By the end of the 1960s, his ideas were largely abandoned and though he continued to write, he lived the rest of his life in relative obscurity from the world community. In 1965 he and the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Lev Landau wrote a letter to the New York Times denying the existence of anti-Semitism in the USSR and castigating those who unnecessarily interfered in the lives of Soviet Jews. The letter was considered propaganda by most Westerners who were involved in this cause. Yevsey Liberman's passing in 1983 was noted by only one publication in the USSR, Eko, a Siberian journal.
Although he did not challenge the fundamental Marxist idea of public ownership of the means of production, party bureaucrats objected to Liberman’s plan because it appeared to incorporate many elements from Western capitalism. In fact, the Western press labeled his ideas “Libermanism" and was quick to publicize elements of his plan that it felt were direct adaptations of capitalism.
Liberman objected to the press labeling his ideas as such, stating: “The importunate attempt by bourgeois commentators to put my name in the headlines makes one laugh rather than be indignant. It is due only to ignorance that all the titanic research and the entire generalization ol practical experience is reduced to the invention of an individual scientist.” He heartily defended the role of profit in a socialist economy explaining: “Where does profit go in the USSR? By no means does it go into the pockets of managers and other industrial executives. The bulk of it is used for expanding socialist production and cultural services for the population.”
Liberman’s ideas obtained a favorable response from the Soviet public, and he reported receiving thousands of letters in support of his proposed reforms. His ideas were tested in many factories over the next few years. Though somewhat successful, Liberman himself reported that the old way of doing things through central bureaucracy was deeply entrenched and had “proved more persistent than had been expected.” He saw an “inertia of thought, views, and ideas” when it came to making innovations. Government agencies resisted change in order to maintain theirpower, and factory management was continually bogged down in a mire of conflicting orders.
The exact date and place of death were not noted in the obituary, but ironically it was stated that Liberman was a “great Soviet scientist” whose ideas reflected “the collective wisdom of the party.”