The most important international development of the second half of the 20th century is the collapse of communism in Europe and the effort to replace it with Western political and economic systems. The heart of that effort, the most difficult and protracted part of it, is the construction of market economies on the ruins of central planning from the eastern part of Germany to the Pacific coast of Russia. That enormous task is the subject of this book.
Making markets where none existed before is an enterprise of daunting scale. It is far greater in scope than the parallel shift from communist to democratic governance. Government, after all, is a full-time activity for only a handful of people in any society. The economy, by contrast, is the setting in which most adults in any country spend their working lives. The transition from plan to market involves abrupt and sweeping changes in the daily routines of hundreds of millions of people -- changes in how and where they work, what they buy, how they earn money to pay for their purchases, and where they live.
Western governments have never deliberately attempted to bring about such vast changes. The closest parallel to the disruption that the countries of formerly communist Europe are bringing on themselves is with natural or man-made disasters: floods, earthquakes, famines, or wars. But even those parallels understate the enormity of the social dislocation that economic transi