New Book: “How To Do It: Lessons from Successful Liberal Reforms in CEE”

Two decades ago, the people in the CE/CA region lived under communist regimes. Their countries were bankrupt and famished. Their citizens had to deal with empty store shelves, they were denied the right to a passport, and a formidable communist secret service spied on their private lives (Mungiu-Pippidi 2007). Twenty years later, a short time by a historical perspective, the people in many of these countries had succeeded in establishing democracies and free-market economies. A complete ideological, political, economic, and social system had just dissolved and a large part of the world, with some 400 million inhabitants, was to choose a new form in every regard, even including what shapes their countries should divide up into. This was one of the greatest revolutions the world has ever seen, and it was a liberal revolution in the classic, European sense. The initiative was seized by liberal revolutionaries, who hoped for a “normal society” and a “return to Europe”. These radical reformers demanded the opposite of the petrified, state-dominated system. Communist dictatorships had to give way to democracy, pluralism, and individual freedom, replacing vertical state commands with horizontal market signals, and public ownership with private property (Aslund 2003).