The Economic Transformation of Eastern Europe: Views from Within

By Bernard S. Katz; Libby Rittenberg | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION

The property reforms initiated in Poland to build the foundations for a sound market economy are daring. No country has ever attempted a complete transition from an economy whose property structure is dominated by state ownership to an economy based on pluralistic structure of property with predominance of private ownership. Both the scale of the endeavor and the pace of needed reforms make previous experiences of property reforms of limited relevance. Conceptual and implementation problems are paramount.

It took much time, effort, and debate to determine the main directions of the reforms, work out their elementary tenets, and pass basic laws. The blueprint stage for property reforms is not over, however. The policy of property reforms may change under the influence of future events.

Some results of the property reforms that have been implemented are encouraging. Other results highlight problems to overcome and possible modifications. The significance of many threats is still unknown.


NOTES
1.
For instance, the general public has never learned who took the decision to construct the gigantic steelworks Katowice, for which the economic rationale is very doubtful and the environmental consequences are disastrous.
2.
This endeavor was particularly evident during the Stalinist period ( 1948- 1954). Later, the ambitions of communist authorities to impose a totalitarian dictatorship gradually dwindled. In the last period of communist rule, there were not even attempts to provide any ideological justification.
3.
Poland was often accused by Soviet ideologues of lagging behind other socialist countries because of the prevailing strong private sector in agriculture.
4.
The consequences of various property arrangements are studied by property rights theory. According to this theory, non-private property rights are non-exclusive and non-transferable. These attributes result in difficulties of internalizing external effects, which in turn undermine and distort incentives of economic actors. A recent exposition of the property rights theory can be found in Barzel ( 1990).
5.
The distinction between the high-powered incentives of the market and low-powered incentives of hierarchies has been made by Oliver Williamson ( Williamson 1985: Chap. 6), who has discussed the economic logic on which these two kinds of incentives are based. According to Williamson, different kinds of incentives fit into different economic situations. High-powered incentives are not a workable arrangement in hierarchical organizations.
6.
The idea of workers' management gained some popularity after political changes in 1956, which marked the end of the Stalinist era, but was quickly

-39-

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