Stephen Cohen

Recent Articles

Privatization in Eastern Europe: The Tunnel at the End of the Light

I n the former Soviet empire, the collapse of Communism created an opportunity for the victims of one failed utopian ideology to find another. The evaporating Soviet system left an ideological vacuum that was quickly filled as legions of Western advisers arrived to help translate the goals of political democracy and a market economy into an action agenda: "democracy" translated quickly into elections; a "market economy" into privatization. As in many hurried translations, the bare essentials were grasped, but much was missed. Elections are essential to democracy, but functioning democracies are built on much more than just elections. And private ownership is only one element of a modern market economy. But it was fundamentalist capitalism that poured in--the simple, universal program that all could understand: free prices, free trade, and, above all, privatize. The fate of small enterprises like shops, restaurants, or farms was never at issue. Everyone agreed that rapid small-scale...