What happened to the end of history? In hindsight, the 1990s seems like a decade of peace, prosperity, and promise. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of dictatorships in Latin America, the Asia Pacific region, and sub-Saharan Africa in the 1980s and ’90s, democracy seemed ascendant; the “third way” of politics championed by Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and Gerhard Schröder spoke of an end to old left-right divisions; new technologies such as the World Wide Web offered a brighter future.

It’s easy to look at the past through rose-tinted glasses. Back in the day, a job was for life, everything was cheaper, young people were polite, and you could leave your doors unlocked. Who hasn’t heard of the “good old days”? But was it really like that? Or do we have selective memories of the past (especially as we endure lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic)?

The 1990s was also a time of brutality and violence. Wars raged in many countries, from Iraq to Somalia, and shocking crimes against humanity took place across the world, including the genocides of Bosnia and Rwanda.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. We almost always look fondly at the past (especially so when it comes to decades in which we were young and carefree). And, of course, your memories and attitudes of the past will vary depending on where you experienced them – for many people in the developing world, for example, now is the time to be optimistic (though, of course, coronavirus may dent that sense of global progress and optimism).

Was everything really better in the 1990s? Are we looking at the past with rose-tinted glasses? Would you like to return to the “good old days”, or are you excited about the future? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

Image Credits: Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

15 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    Tell that to people in former Yugoslavia or Bulgaria. They will laugh at you. Yugoslavia experienced the bloodiest war in Europe since WW2. As for Bulgaria, people didn’t have anything to eat twice in 1991 and 1997. One dollar costed 3000 BGN. The mafia was everywhere. Far from wonderful times. The 00s were far better.

  2. avatar
    EU Reform-Proactive

    Will everything be better in the future?
    It would equally be wrong to look into the future through rose-tinted glasses!

    Please all EU experts & politicians list all the great improvements awaiting us. Doesn’t EU law dictate the economy is its sole competence?

    Have these current glasses become so blue-tinted that politicians, their image advisers & their many think tanks are lost?

    Slowly, the truth & reality about Covid-19 is emerging!

    Probably, governments have pains to explain their difficulties out of the COVID hype to provide a believable & face-saving way out.

    It seems the invisible hand understood much better what a political “Achilles heel” means.

    Leaders need to account for the damages caused by such shutdown vs. net life saved- this tradeoff will have for the EU, but also the Chinese, the US, and globally.

    Who will emerge winners & who the losers?
    Democracies vs. dictatorships?


    In order not to distract from the past- what will the future be:

    * of the national & personal GDP/debt ratio & its consequences?
    * for the young, given the “privilege” of free EU rail travel & Erasmus?
    * for the middle-aged who may lose their business & diminished prospects in the Schengen area?
    * of the EU principle of comparative advantage?
    * for the employed & their job safety?
    * for the older folks believing they had a save retirement?

    Won’t it be like always, the fittest both in health & wits will excel & survive?

    Everyone be their judge & master of fate!

  3. avatar

    i’d say 00-s were far better. 90s… not really. lot of crimes all across the board. Newly independent (restored or completely new) countries were poor as hell, uncertainty was strong. If anything it was uneasy hopeful era for lot of people. At least in europe.

  4. avatar

    For French it is worse and worse
    More crime more tax less freedom.. Life is more expensive..

  5. avatar

    Things are getting worse and worse. Leaders are cowardly and mediocre and the economy is like an old Soviet joke, a 10-year-long economic crisis every ten years. Only China and South Korea seem to be advancing anymore, we are living on their scraps. Europe is a second world dinosaur with no ambition and everything outdated, and USA is like the USSR in the eighties, a total basket case with a space programme and thousands of nukes.
    And that’s the view from what used to be one of the most optimistic countries in the world.

  6. avatar

    How quickly people forget..1st gulf war…Rwandan civil war..Russian invasion of Georgia.. conflicts between Serbia & several ex Yugoslavia regions…Bosnia…Sudan..the list goes on.m.

  7. avatar

    Before Bill Gates started investing in GMO seeds, nuclear power and vaccines — yes.

  8. avatar

    in 1990s there was less ecological demagogy and less bothering usefull taxes in the most of the World

  9. avatar

    2 mega crises within 11 years… sure 90’s was great!

  10. avatar
    Catherine Benning

    Was everything better in the 1990s

    The 1960’s was light years ahead in the UK than it is today, many decades after being made EU members.


    Britain 1998 after 20 something years in the EEC.


    And the UK after more than forty years in the EEC/EU


    The British way of life we no longer can aspire to since our unity with a peculiar continent that has left its disastrous heritage behind for us to pick up the pieces and put our people to the front line once again.


    Now I wonder why we decided to do that?

  11. avatar

    For the Western world – yes. For the Balkans – definately not. The last normal decade for everyone was the first decade of the century. Ever since the Arab Spring the world is in chaos.

  12. avatar

    Of course… Before EU ruins us with low salary, migrations, excessive norms, expansive energy, free trade destroying industries…

  13. avatar

    Scientifically speaking it was better since we were further away from ecological and climate collapse than we are today, and there was more time to hope we would deal with it.

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