STANFORD – When the Berlin Wall fell a quarter-century ago this November, pundits led by Francis Fukuyama proclaimed the end of history – the triumph of democratic capitalism over all rival systems. America’s economic success and the collapse of communism fed the narrative. The long political, intellectual, and, at times, military confrontation that we knew as the Cold War was over.
Indeed, at a meeting in Warsaw in the winter of 1990, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, Poland’s President and communist party boss, declared to me and my cabinet colleagues that “The forces of history have inevitably led us to capitalism.” He could not free himself of the Hegelian dialectic, but he admitted that communism had gotten history’s end point entirely wrong.
A couple of decades later, various forms of capitalism have worked wonders for some former communist and socialist countries. Poland is an excellent example of a successful economic and political transition.
But capitalism is far from flourishing everywhere. North Korea, which never had a transition and maintains heavy-handed central planning, is an economic basket case. And soft socialism combined with subsidized “national champions” is decaying in France.