The Free Enterprise Corps to the Rescue
David F. Linowes. David F. Linowes is professor of political economy and public policy is the former chairman of the president's Commission on Privatization., The Christian Science Monitor
WE all rejoiced at the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the movements for democracy and freedom. Efforts to win authoritarian nations to the democratic way of life, however, never adequately defined the critical role played by private enterprise and free markets. All eyes were on the prize of human rights.
The force that changed the face of Eastern Europe was not only the cry for political freedom, but also the yearning for adequate food, clothing, shelter, and even television sets and refrigerators. This yearning requires capitalism's competition and entrepreneurship.
Democracy has essentially arrived, but consumer goods haven't. One unemployed Hungarian said to me, "When my children have empty stomachs and bare feet, I lose my enthusiasm for the ballot box." Without the productivity of free enterprise, material wants are unmet.
Much has been achieved by the brave men and women in Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia who have thrown off their political yokes. But these same people have been heavily indoctrinated in an authoritarian economic culture. In our highly advanced technological global village, they will find it nearly impossible to remove their economic bonds alone.
Skilled technicians and trained professionals increasingly are leaving their native lands in Eastern Europe. Last year alone more than 1 million people left the region, and the exodus grows. Two and a half million passports have been issued in Romania alone. During the last year, gross national product has declined more than 3 percent in that nation, with similar declines throughout the region. In Poland, GNP fell more than 10 percent. Such statistics are reflected in exploding street riots, reduced living standards, and ever-mounting unemployment.
The political achievements of well over 100 million struggling people need to be buttressed from the outside by constant, even aggressive assistance in promoting free enterprise. Unproductive, archaic government-run enterprises and centralized controls must be replaced. …