Building Blocs | Freedom House

Building Blocs

The New Republic, by Joshua Tucker

Monday marks the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is worth pausing to recall just how momentous, and unanticipated, this event and those that followed were. My students today have no memory of the cold war; to them, Prague and Budapest, just like Paris and Madrid, are simply places to visit or study in Europe. For the people who lived under communism, however, the system's collapse ushered in an economic transformation unlike any the modern world had ever seen: inflation wiped out the savings of millions of people; unemployment went from being (officially) non-existent to a chronic problem; and homes, businesses, and entire industries passed from state hands to private ownership. At the same time, consumers suddenly had access to goods and services that hadn't been available behind the Iron Curtain, and, for the first time in decades, entrepreneurs were able to start their own companies. Along with these economic changes--at least, in most of the countries--came elections and the potential for democracy, so long denied to citizens in the communist world. Read more.

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