Havel’s other legacy – restoring civic society

Following the death of Vaclav Havel, many have justifiably focused on his efforts to defend human rights and bring his people out from under the crushing thumb of communism. But what Havel did after Czechoslovakia gained its freedom played an even larger role in his nation’s development.

Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum addresses the difference between Havel and other post-communist leaders.

“Havel was different, in the end, from so many of his generation. Obsessed for so long with the tactics of destruction, few of them understood the importance of reconstruction. In fact, victory was not just toppling the old regime, victory was creating the institutions and symbols that would replace it,” writes Applebaum.

Her point is underscored by Raj Desai of the Brookings Institution, who notes his often-underappreciated economic legacy.

“In the ‘year of the protester,’ Havel’s life and work should serve as a reminder to all citizens of the importance of civic virtue in underpinning both political and economic liberty,” contends Desai.

What separates Havel from other leaders was Havel’s belief that long-term survival “would hinge on the resilience of civic and political institutions, which would be needed to force mid-term corrections in economic policy, to support competition, to police the common market, and to protect consumers, investors, taxpayers, and entrepreneurs.”

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