Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Post-Poland Reflection: Meet TINA

The woman who explained TINA was not named Tina, but Magda. “TINA” refers to the triumph of free market capitalism over all other forms of economic-social organization, especially communism. Literally, it stands for the phrase “There Is No Alternative.”

Capitalist growing pains, Warsaw. Expensive shoes, resentful graffiti, anti-U.S. sentiment.

TINA is often smug, sometimes a pragmatic recognition that life is imperfect. One can say of free market capitalism, as Churchill said of democracy, that it is “the worst system of governance except all those other systems which have been tried from time to time.”

It’s interesting to think about TINA in the context of Poland, which is only about 15 years into its transition. Magda herself, a sociologist, was on her way to a symposium called “Anti-TINA.” Poland is apparently part of what seems to be a trend throughout Europe (and I fear the United States) of throwing out babies with the bathwater – of moving continually rightward and dismantling the social welfare safety net in favor of sink or swim laissez faire economics.

Former communist party buildings now festooned with corporate logos...

... and ads for interest rates.

There are strikingly few fat people in Poland, compared to the west (especially here in the U.S.). My new theory is that it’s because there just wasn’t so much junk food and fast food commercially available under communism. That could be about to change.

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KFC, Warsaw. McD's, Krakow.

The stores are filled with merchandise now. Is consumer choice an unalloyed good thing? Check out those shoes!

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Nina’s sister says that the ubiquitous graffiti in Poland appeared very suddenly as the free market brought widespread availability of spray paint in stores.

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Poland had more car makes on their streets than anyplace I've ever been. The U.S. and ever car-manufacturing nation in the world seemed to be represented. More cars, trending bigger. That's the old Fiat "Polska" (serioussly, not making that up) alongside a bigger, newer Audi.


Uh, oh -- an SUV makes its sinister appearance on Krakow's narrow streets.



What is it about free markets and sex? These porn handbills were littering the streets all over Warsaw.


And of course, sex and advertizing go hand in hand. Sex appeal on Polish billboards -- not terribly subtle.


Finally, free market capitalism means boom and bust. Poland is going through a serious economic slump. One sign: the boom led to a Polish version of the "McMansion craze" seen in the U.S., but when the bust came, a lot of homeowners ran out of money to finish their building projects.

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These unfinished houses are a common sight in the Polish suburban and rural landscape.

Communist era housing. So it's not beautiful, but it's decent and affordable, and there's a humane concept at work: there are parks, shops and, below right, a high school all within the housing complex.

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So are there alternatives?


Ah, good! The trip lives on ...
I am not ready to have you revert to home just yet. Your reflections on your trip and the photos are most welcome.
Well actually that's not a Fiat "Polska", but a Polski Fiat 126p. As in "Polish Fiat".
Piat 126p in yellow - that's the classic :). Oh, boy there is much more to show and say about Poland than you have shown ...
And TINA? It's everywhere but just loooks differently at different times or in different places.
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