Capitalism by Democratic Design? Democratic Theory Facing the Triple Transition in Central and Eastern Europe
Convergence theories of the sixties and seventies predicted that the two rival political economic systems would more or less rapidly assimilate each other and inevitably move toward each other. The East was to be enriched with market elements, while the “mixed” economic order of western capitalism had already adopted elements of state intervention into production and distribution processes. The problem with this theory, as is now becoming apparent, was that only the West was capable of “mixing”, whereas the socialist societies were constantly on the verge of “capsizing” through concessions made to political liberalization (party competition, freedom of opinion), national independence, decentralized forms of ownership, and competitive price formation, to say nothing about “economic democracy”. Western admixtures were regularly taken back. Everywhere the self-transformation of socialist societies foundered on the political elites’ justified fear of downward paths. The “oil-spill thesis”, which predicts that the entire system will be spoiled when just a single “alien” element or move is introduced, turned out precisely not to apply to those systems for which it was meant to hold true in the twenties by von Mises, i.e., western capitalist democracies. All the more clearly, however, was it corroborated for the state socialist regimes. As is shown by the results of the debates of the sixties and seventies over economic reform in the eastern block, these regimes did not manage to incorporate their opposite principle in both sufficient and harmless dosage.
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