Three years ago, everything seemed much clearer: the Berlin Wall had collapsed, and with it communism in Eastern Europe. The failed coup in Moscow vastly expanded the terrain—psychological as well as geographic— of that collapse. But now, we live in the era of “post-communism,” an odd term that serves as foundation for speculation, hope, and confusion among (and about) more than four hundred million people exiting a system that a half century ago proclaimed itself the future of all mankind.
Defined by what was, post-communism’s promise of transition has yet to show what will be—and nowhere more clearly than in economics. At the beginning, “shock therapy” seemed somehow necessary, the castor oil to cleanse centrally planned systems; the shock therapists— Sachs, Fisher, Balcerowicz, Klaus and others—became heroes to many, their revolutionary zeal oddly entrancing to peoples for whom revolution had brought such costs....
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