Poland is the country with the most positive attitude towards capitalism. Radical economic reforms lifted the country out of poverty. Capitalism is not a problem for Poland – it is the solution.

A survey in 29 countries so far shows that in no other country where this study was carried out, so many people have a positive attitude towards capitalism as in Poland. And Poland is today one of the economically most successful countries in Europe with high growth rates for decades. But in socialist times Poland was one of the poorest countries in Europe.

In 1989, at $50 a month, a Pole earned just a tenth of the average German, and even if you adjust for purchasing power, it was less than a third. At that time Poles were poorer than the Ukrainians and the gross domestic product per inhabitant was only half as high as in Czechoslovakia. Inflation in Poland was 260 percent in 1989 and 400 percent in 1990.

As late as 1910, the income of a Pole was 56 percent of that of a Western European. But by the end of the socialist era, which lasted from 1945 to 1990, this proportion had fallen dramatically; In 1990 a Pole earned only 31 percent of what people earn in Western Europe.

However, as a result of consistent capitalist reforms, the standard of living in Poland was raised significantly and in 2016 it was already 57 percent of the level of Western Europeans, whose standard of living had risen significantly after the war. Poles benefited from capitalism across all income groups.

Rainer Zitelmann has a doctorate in history, sociology and has been a member of the FDP for 28 years. He is also the author of the book “Psychology of the Super-Rich”.

Marcin Piatkowski states in his excellent book, published in 2018: “Europe’s Growth Champion”: “But 25 years later, Poland has become the undisputed pioneer of transformation and the growth champion in Europe and in the world. Since the start of the post-communist transition in 1989, Poland’s economy has grown faster than any other country in Europe. Poland’s GDP per capita has grown almost two and a half times, outperforming all other post-communist countries and the euro zone.

But not only the standard of living of the Poles has improved dramatically, but also the environment. Contrary to the claims of anti-capitalists that capitalism is responsible for environmental degradation and climate change, the example of Poland shows that the opposite is true. Energy intensity, i.e. the ratio of energy consumption to gross domestic product, halved between 1990 and 2011.

And the increase in CO2 emissions in Poland has meanwhile been decoupled from the increase in gross domestic product. Capitalism is not the problem, it is the solution – so this applies not only to improving living standards, but also to the environment and climate change.

How did Poland manage this and why was Poland more successful in the transition to capitalism than other ex-socialist countries? A major reason was because the capitalist reforms were carried out more radically and faster, but also because not only the economy and institutions have changed, but also people’s thinking and behavior.

And, as so often in history, the work and importance of individual people should not be underestimated. The former finance minister Leszek Balcerowicz should be mentioned first. The liberal economist was finance minister in Poland’s first democratic government, which was elected in 1989. He was also Chairman of the National Bank of Poland (2001-2007) and twice Deputy Prime Minister of Poland (1989-1991, 1997-2001).

Balcerowicz developed a program of capitalist reform that later came to be known as “shock therapy”. “The reform program,” Piatkowski said, “was one of the most radical economic reform programs ever undertaken in peacetime in world history.”

It is in the nature of such reform programs that they initially lead to a temporary worsening of the situation for perhaps two years, but the Poles have been more than rewarded for their perseverance, for the Balcerowicz program was also the reason why Poland was the first formerly was a socialist country that got back on course for economic growth in 1992 and later became extremely successful.

Like Maggi Thatcher, Leszek Balcerowicz was also a supporter of consistently free-market thinkers such as Friedrich August von Hayek and Ludwig von Mises. Poland is an outstanding example of how successful these ideas, which have been criticized as “neoliberal”, can be. One can only hope that Poles today will not forget the reasons for their economic success.

Unfortunately, there is reason for skepticism, because the current government, which is considered right-wing in Germany, pursues left-wing economic and social policies, has stopped privatizations and even carried out some nationalizations, lowered the retirement age and launched costly social programs.

Energy has never been as expensive as it is now. But instead of panicking, you should calmly check potential savings at home. As our guide shows, there are many of them.