channeled to the top. While the proportion of poor has dropped somewhat since 1990, the absolute numbers have grown (fed by rapid population growth, a problem not shared by most post-communist countries). Moreover, growth has not generated many formal-sector jobs. In Argentina, despite several years of rapid growth in the early 1990s, roughly one in six workers remains unemployed. Violence of all sorts, from crime to guerrilla insurrection, has increased sharply. Social services in most countries continue to deteriorate (see Schrieberg, 1997; for more careful empirical evidence, see Londoñio and Székely, 1997).
Similar but more intense trends are all too obvious in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. As more post-communist states succeed in stabilizing their economies and introducing basic elements of market systems, concern grows about what kinds of societies are being created by the new institutions. Surveys indicate that many people value new political, religious, and personal liberties and prefer the wider array of consumer goods, even with high price tags, to the scarcity economy. But unemployment remains very high even in those countries that have begun to grow. Concerns about the pathologies of half-installed market mechanisms are widespread. Most citizens are frightened and cynical regarding organized crime unchecked by ineffective or corrupt police and courts, sometimes linked to high officials. Many are also deeply worried by the decline—in some countries, the virtual disintegration—of social services and transfers that used to provide considerable security and opportunity.
Already high and rapidly increasing inequality may be generating particularly undesirable effects, especially in societies that until recently had comparatively narrow spreads in income, opportunity, and security.
Low-end poverty—the possible emergence of a pool of long-term unemployed, the plight of many elderly living alone, the hardships faced by many large families—is clearly a humanitarian or welfare challenge. It is less clear to what extent and in what ways poverty also threatens to erode system legitimacy or distort representativeness. The hard fact is that in most societies with more or less open political systems, the very poor play little role in politics. That fact is not desirable, but if post-communist systems replicate the pattern, they will not be very different from most other open or semi-open political systems. However, the fact of considerable poverty may be an insidious solvent of social solidarity and national self-respect among citizens in general. This may be particularly true in countries that did not have (or denied that they had) extensive poverty before the transformation.
The impoverishment of large segments of the old middle strata of society may have more powerful effects on evolving political systems than the emergence (or growth) of severe poverty in post-communist societies. Civil servants, teachers and professors, medical and scientific workers, and other professionals in public service have been hard hit by falling revenues and budget