What’s Left After 1989?

NEW YORK – Twenty years ago, when the Berlin Wall was breached and the Soviet empire was collapsing, only die-hard believers in a communist utopia felt unhappy. A few people, of course, clung to the possibility of what was once called “actually existing socialism.” Others criticized the triumphalism of the “new world order” promised by George H.W. Bush. And the way West Germany rolled over the wreckage of its East German neighbor seemed almost like an act of cruelty.

Still, 1989 was a good time to be alive (except in China, where the democrats were put down). Many of us felt that we were seeing the dawn of a new liberal age, in which freedom and justice would spread, like fresh flowers, across the globe. Twenty years on, we know this was not to be.