Commanding Heights EP2/3

Commanding Heights EP2/3

Episode Two: The Agony of Reform

As the 1980s begin and the Cold War grinds on, the existing world
order appears firmly in place. Yet beneath the surface powerful
currents are carving away at the economic foundations.

Western democracies still struggle with deficits and inflation, while
communism hides the failure of its command economy behind a facade of
military might. In Latin America populist dictators strive to thwart
foreign economic exploitation, piling up debt and igniting
hyperinflation in the process. In India and Africa bureaucracies
established to end poverty through scientific planning spawn black
markets and corruption and stifle enterprise.

Worldwide, the strategies of government planning are failing to
produce their intended results. From Bolivia and Peru to Poland and
Russia, the free-market policies of Thatcher and Reagan are looked to
as a possible blueprint for escape. One by one, economies in crisis
adopt “shock therapy” — a rapid conversion to free-market
capitalism.

As the command economies totter and collapse, privatization transfers
economic power back into entrepreneurial hands, and whole societies go
through wrenching change. For some the demands and opportunities of
the market provide a longed for liberation. Others, lacking the means
to adapt, see their security and livelihood swept away. In this new
capitalist revolution enlightened enterprise and cynical exploitation
thrive alike. The sum total of global wealth expands, but its unequal
distribution increases, too, and economic regeneration exacts a high
human price.