Reinventing Republicanism in Poland

Poland has never been a particularly liberal country. In other words, its political culture has not focused on the individual or individual rights. Consider the great confrontation of the 1980s: between the collectivist ideology of the Communist Party and the spirit of solidarity of the opposition. Both sides were animated in part by older republican virtues – a focus on the public good....
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The Sum of Our Fears

We who live in the industrialized world have put up a large retaining wall to safeguard us from the horrors that have plagued humanity throughout history. We no longer worry on a daily basis about some Genghis Khan figure sweeping through our towns and leaving great piles of skulls in his wake. We don’t obsess about famines, which once appeared with the regularity of the seasons. The Black...
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A Commitment to Children

They are called the decret generation. During the Communist era in Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu issued Decree 770 in 1967 making abortion and contraception illegal except under certain circumstances. The Communist leader wanted to radically increase the population of the country. People with money or political influence found a way around the regulations. But those who did not expect or could not...
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Rescuing Rural Schools

In the early 1990s, Poland began an overhaul of its political system that transferred considerable authority to local authorities, including ownership and management of the public schools. Local governments were suddenly responsible for paying for education from local funds. In many of the smaller, less densely populated areas, there wasn’t enough money to keep the schools going. As a result,...
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The Land of Junk Contracts

The Poles call them umowa śmieciowa or “junk contracts.” If you’re young and lucky enough to have a job in Poland these days, it’s likely to be short-term and come without benefits. Ten percent of young people (up to the age of 25) are working in the black market, and another 25 percent have part-time or short-term work. Of the rest, most have job contracts that provide little in the way...
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The Accidental Activist

Romania’s revolution in 1989 was not as clear-cut as those in other countries in the region. There was not, for instance, a sharp divide between the Communist political elite and the post-Communist elite. And the street demonstrations that faded elsewhere in the region intensified in Romania through the spring of 1990. For instance in April and May 1990, thousands of students occupied...
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