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Europe's Growth ChampionInsights from the Economic Rise of Poland$
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Marcin Piatkowski

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198789345

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198789345.001.0001

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What Black Death was to Western Europe, Communism was to Central and Eastern Europe

What Black Death was to Western Europe, Communism was to Central and Eastern Europe

(p.82) 3 What Black Death was to Western Europe, Communism was to Central and Eastern Europe
Europe's Growth Champion

Marcin Piatkowski

Oxford University Press

I argue in this chapter that despite its ultimate social, economic, and moral bankruptcy, communism imposed on Poland after 1945 sowed the seeds of the country’s economic success after 1989. The old, feudal social structures were bulldozed to snap Poland out of growth-inhibiting extractive society equilibrium, creating a classless society, boosting social mobility, and securing good quality of education for all. Forced industrialization and unprecedented labour movements supported solid GDP growth rates in Poland until the 1960s, but low returns on investment, lack of technological progress, and external shocks caused declining growth rates in the 1970s, and economic stagnation in the 1980s. I conclude that the assumption that if Poland had returned to capitalism after 1945, it would have developed as quickly as the West, is simplistic. I show that a capitalist Poland would have faced significant challenges to growth, and convergence with the West would not have been guaranteed.

Keywords:   economic history, communism, industrialization, social mobility, convergence, economic stagnation, debt crisis, solidarity

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