Thursday, September 6, 2007

Lessons from Warsaw

Warsaw is growing. As you land in the airport as I did yesterday, some dozen or more planes are at their gates, taking off or on the taxiways - more action that when I first came here in 2005. The airport itself has been expanded. The laying of new water mains has closed several main avenues in central Warsaw and created long delays in traffic - one of the signs of successful modernization all around the world. A new shopping mall is up - across from the Palace of Culture which was Stalin's gift to the Polish people and is kept by them as a simple reminder of past subservience to Communist dictat. Streets have been resurfaced; buildings and pedestrians have less and less of that pervasive brown/grey drabness of buildings, streets, clothing and facial expressions that one associates with all genuine dictatorships of the proletariat.

The Polish economy has been growing by 6% a year. Poland is part of the European Union - a full citizen of Europe at last.

The significance of all this: capitalism works; it really works. It is a system of human activity that meets human needs and grows and expands, changes and diversifies.

Is capitalism perfect - a heavenly ideal realized here on earth? No way. As a human system it is prey to all the errors and follies that the species exults in. Like any of us seeking to be better, it needs ideals to shape and constrain its ambitions, systems of checks and balances to keep it from excess, and laws and regulations to minimize its abuses of power.

It is always a work in progress. As is said about the price of liberty, eternal vigilance is also the cost of a moral capitalism.

Steve Young
Sept 6, 2007

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