Friday, July 29, 2005

From Marx to Hayek

I just re-read "The Commanding Heights: The Battle for World Economy" by Daniel Yergin & Joseph Stanislaw. I rediscovered one of my favorite part about a former Communist turned liberal economist, Vaclav Klaus. Klaus was the Prime Minister of Czech Republic after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Vaclav Klaus was, to turn around an old phrase, a gamekeeper turned poacher. As an economist in one of the hardest of hardline communist regimes, he had been entrusted by his bosses with the critical responsibility to "know the enemy" -- to read, analyze, and master such dangerous advocates of market liberalism as Hayek and Friedman. The problem was that the more he studied their work, the more persuasive and convincing he found them. Amid the war of ideas, he underwent a battlefield conversion. "I am proud," he once said, "of having been . . . accused of being a Friedmanite and a Chicagoan, even in the dark days of communism." He even wrote an essay entitled "The University of Chicago and I." Liberal ideas governed his policies when he launched the Czech version of shock therapy in January 1991, exactly one year after Poland's. As far as Klaus was concerned, there was no alternative. The debate between shock therapy and gradualism was irrelevant and unrealistic when it came to the realities of transition. "Such choice doesn't exist, because governments don't have as much control as they think over the speed," he explained. "What we do know is that the more they put brakes on the transformation, the most costly and painful it will be."
Of course, Czech Republic is now a properous country with a growing economy. After the fall of the Soviet Union, a few places that are still advocating Marxist economy are Cuba, North Korea, and US campuses.


Blogger MaxedOutMama said...

Yes, yes, the US campuses teaching a decayed and self-satisfied Marxism. Not a pretty picture.

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