NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

EAST GERMANY REMAINS PRO-STATE

June 13, 2006

Exposure to Communism has made East Germans much more pro-state than West Germans, says the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

According to researchers:

  • This effect could arise due to indoctrination (such as teaching the virtues of Communism in the schools) or simply due to becoming used to an intrusive public sector.
  • A second, indirect effect of Communism is that by making former East Germany poorer than West Germany, it has made the former more dependent on redistribution and therefore more favorable to it.

NBER found that the effects of Communism are large and long lasting, and it will take one to two generations for former East and West Germans to look alike in terms of preferences and attitudes regarding the role of the government in society.

The citizens' preferences appear to go beyond self-serving beliefs. For example:

  • About a third of the difference can be explained by the fact that the East became poorer during Communism and is now a net beneficiary of redistribution within Germany, rather than to an effect of Communism on preferences.
  • East Germans are simply much more likely than West Germans to conclude that, "social conditions, rather than individual effort and initiative, determine individual fortunes."

The good news is that while Communist attitudes may still linger, they are waning and, though it may take 20 or 40 years, the two sides will converge, says NBER.

Source: Matthew Davis, "The Effects of Communism on Popular Preferences," NBER Digest, April 2006; based upon: Alberto Alesina and Nichola Fuchs Schuendeln, "Good bye Lenin (or not?): The Effect of Communism on People's Preferences," National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 11700.

 

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