Writing about web page http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/11/07/berlin_wall_fall_25_anniversary_reagan_bush_germany_merkel_cold_war_free_market_capitalism
There is a flurry of commentaries, articles, etc, celebrating (or just discussing what happened since 1989) a quarter century from the fall of the Berlin Wall.
My pick for this week is Melvyn P. Leffler argument in Foreing Policy, titled: The Free Market Did Not Bring Down the Berlin Wall.
Leffler is quite correct when speaking about the missreading (call it bullshiting) of the events by American (and Western) politicians:
When Germany re-unified, the Cold War ended, and the Soviet Union dissolved, the (American) president could not resist taking credit for events: "We brought about the fall of the Iron Curtain and the death of imperial communism," he told supporters at a rally in Ohio in May 1992.
Democrats, too, misread the fall of the Berlin Wall. They agreed that the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union discredited the role of government and demonstrated the superiority of free markets. They embraced open trade and globalization, the North American Free Trade Act and the World Trade Organization. They repealed the Depression-era firewall between commercial and investment banking and failed to regulate the expanding sectors of the financial economy, like derivative trading and the securitization of mortgages. They forced other governments to deregulate financial controls as a condition for free trade pacts or for securing financial assistance during the Asian financial crisis. "The trend toward democracy and free markets throughout the world," Bill Clinton said, "advances American interests." The end of the Wall, the collapse of the Russian economy, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union finalized the embrace of neoliberal economic policies by both sides of American politics."...
Leffler is quite correct again that this view of events is junk, when he observes that:
These extrapolations are not just misguided, they are wrong. With what we now know about the history of the Wall coming down -- the contingency of the event and the agency of ordinary people -- we should draw different lessons, ones that are not about the universal appeal of freedom or the munificence of free markets or the efficacy of strength, power, and containment.
When we think about the collapse of communism, we should emphasize and celebrate the attractiveness of a social market economy -- not free enterprise. Indeed, it was the principles of the social market, regulated competition and a commitment to social equality and a safety net, that were incorporated into the law establishing the economic and monetary union of West and East Germany. In the ideological competition between free enterprise and communism, the social market won the Cold War. Notwithstanding the Reagan-Thatcher assault on government and regulation, social safety nets did not erode in the 1980s, not even in the United States and Great Britain. And throughout the European Union, social protection as a percentage of GDP actually reached its peak in 1993. The ability to reconcile peace with prosperity made the west so appealing to citizens behind the Iron Curtain.
The Berlin Wall came down because of the resilience of western economies and the appeal of the culture of mass consumption. When East Germans flocked to West Germany, they were not going there to herald the arrival of the recently deployed Pershing II missiles. Nonetheless, we must realize that the economic reconstruction and integration of Western Europe would not have occurred without U.S. troops stationed in Europe after World War II and the establishment of NATO. U.S. military strength and strategic commitments were essential backdrops for Franco-German reconciliation and the modernization of western European economies.
As I lived on the "eastern" side of the courtain at that time, I could certify that indeed the social market (& mass consumption) was what made the western european model so attractive for soviet citizens. Problem is that these citizens hoped for something and they got a totally different thing from the "bargain." Hopefully, they will get what they hoped for in 1989, in the following 25 or 50 years, although the expectations are bleaker now than they were twenty five years ago.