For four decades during the latter half of the 20th century, Poland and its people were the subjects of a grand socio-economic experiment. Under the watchful eye of its Soviet masters, the Polish United Workers’ Party transformed the mixed economy of this nation of 35 million into a centrally planned, socialist state (albeit one with an irrepressible black market). Then, in the closing decade of the 20th century, under the leadership of Polish minister of finance Leszek Balcerowicz, the nation was transformed back into a mixed economy.
In this book, we document the results of this experiment. We show that there was a wide chasm between the lofty goals of socialist ideology and the realities of socialism as the Polish people experienced them. We also show that while the transition back from a socialist to a mixed economy was not without its own pain, it did unleash the extraordinary productive power of the Polish people, allowing their standard of living to rise at more than twice the rate of growth that prevailed during the socialist era. The experiences of the Poles, like those of so many behind the Iron Curtain, demonstrate the value of economic freedom, the immiserating consequences of its denial, and the often painful process of regaining lost freedoms.