HAVE POST COMMUNIST COUNTRIES BECOME “NORMAL COUNTRIES”? I have posted a number of times on the aftermath of the fall of the Iron Curtain. The event was the most important in my adult life. For example, I posted here in 2007 that East Germany had not caught up with West Germany and that it would take them a long time to do so. I posted here in 2009 on Ann Applebaum’s view of the fall of the Berlin Wall after 20 years: “what an extraordinary, almost unbelievable success it has all been.”

Andrei Shleifer and Daniel Treisman have written an appraisal of how all of the former Communist countries have done in the last 25 years (link via Marginal Revolution). Their title summarizes their conclusions: “Normal Countries: The East 25 Years After Communism”. They say: “In most regards….[the postCommunist countries] look today just like other countries at similar levels of economic development.” Some of the statistical tests they use are:

*In terms of economic freedom, in 2011, these countries averaged 7.0 on a commonly used index of economic freedom compared with a global average of 6.8.

*Even accepting the exaggerated numbers of the previous Communist states, the median postCommunist state grew a little faster from 1890 to 2011 than did the median country in the rest of the world (Norway).

*From 1993 to 2011 the average among the post Communist countries went from one passenger car for every ten people to one car for every four.

In the latter part of the paper, Shleifer and Treisman also argue that the countries that adopted “radical” economic reform were more successful than did countries that introduced reforms gradually.

The authors conclude that the post Communist transition reveals the superiority of liberal capitalism and democracy over all attempted alternatives.


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