Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The two sides of the Berlin wall

What difference does it make to live under a totalitarian government versus in a democracy where you are allowed to make most decisions for yourself? An “experiment” was performed in Germany and it instructs us. At the end of World War II the Allied powers agreed to split Germany and separately Berlin into four sections for a temporary transition. But the Soviet Union violated all agreements and put their portion of Germany and Berlin under the iron fist of Stalin.  So people who were all living in the same culture and under the same government were split into democracy West Germany and totalitarian East Germany. The people of East Germany lived in daily fear of the spies of the Stasi secret police. The West Germans were able to make most of their own decisions.

What difference did it make? A huge difference. The two Germanys were united starting when the Berlin wall was smashed down in 1989. After 20 years of unification the people who had lived under constant surveillance still distrusted each other. Economists Helmut Rainer and Thomas Siedler did an in-depth study.

National Review: The Corner - Sweet and Sour Krauts

… They looked at the results of a Germany-wide survey that had been administered twice a year since 1980: According to their analysis, East Germans were much less trusting toward other people than their counterparts.

Perhaps discouragingly, their mistrust did not lift easily when the Stasi’s reign ended. When the researchers compared survey data collected not long after reunification to data collected in 2002, it was clear that living in a democracy for a decade had not made East Germans significantly more trusting of others.

Other studies have shown additional lasting differences. One found that, because in East Germany women were encouraged to work more than they were in the West, East Germans were significantly more likely to believe that men and women are equal. Another found that, because the East German regime ran official doping programs for athletes, East Berliners were much more accepting than West Berliners of performance-enhancing drugs 20 years after reunification.

Read about it at The Corner above, then at the original source: Boston Globe

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