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Prague, CZ: Then and Now

Summary:
I am back in Prague teaching at the CEVRO Institute PPE program.  This will be 3rd year teaching in this program. But I have been coming to Prague for almost 30 years.  I came here first at the invitation of Central European University and the Center for Research and Graduate Education (they shared the same building at the time), I later came as part of a joint program between Charles University and TFAS that provided a summer institute for students throughout the former communist economies, then I came as part of the faculty and even as a Fulbright scholar to the Prague University of Economics, and now at CEVRO.  And, I was here for the MPS meetings as well.  I have spent more time in Prague than any other East or Central European country, though I have had the good fortune through

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I am back in Prague teaching at the CEVRO Institute PPE program.  This will be 3rd year teaching in this program. But I have been coming to Prague for almost 30 years.  I came here first at the invitation of Central European University and the Center for Research and Graduate Education (they shared the same building at the time), I later came as part of a joint program between Charles University and TFAS that provided a summer institute for students throughout the former communist economies, then I came as part of the faculty and even as a Fulbright scholar to the Prague University of Economics, and now at CEVRO.  And, I was here for the MPS meetings as well.  I have spent more time in Prague than any other East or Central European country, though I have had the good fortune through the years to be a fellow at the Academy of Sciences in Moscow, and to be a visiting professor or present my research at universities in former Austria, former East Germany, Poland, Romania, Serbia, and Slovakia.  I have very much enjoyed my visits and sough to learn much from both formal interactions with scholars and students, and with informal interactions with the culture and everyday life of the citizens.

I am a big believer in social history done right, and I will write a blog entry on this in the not so distant future, and travel and observation is a prelude in many ways to doing social history correctly (emphasis on the use of the word prelude).  But what strikes me in my almost annual visits to Prague through the years is how much has changed since my first visits all those years ago.  Slow subtle changes have followed the seismic changes of 1989 and then again December 31, 1992 when the Czech Republic and Slovakia went separate ways with the final dissolution of Czechoslovakia.

But, one of the things that is most striking to me isn't from my visits here, but in my returns from here back home to the US and the conversations currently popular in the US about socialism.  This region of the world had to escape from consequences of socialism, and still has in many ways scars from that social experiment.  We should not forget what 1989 meant to the people in this region, and how despite the difficulties of post-communism, the freedom here has unleashed creative energies and led to vibrancy and flourishing that could only be imagined under the previous regime.

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First image is riot police blocking the bridge in 1989 to prevent protests at the Prague Castle, the second image is the Charles Bridge in recent times full of tourists enjoying the beauty of the city. It wasn't all that long ago that armed police were deployed to stop students from expressing their voice in favor of freedom and democratic representation which were absent under socialism -- a socialism I should add that was supposed to represent that true democratic freedoms of the people.

Peter Boettke
Peter Joseph Boettke (January 3, 1960) is an American economist of the Austrian School. He is currently a University Professor of Economics and Philosophy at George Mason University; the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism, Vice President for Research, and Director of the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at GMU.

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