The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall this month should be celebrated by all free people. Not only did it presage the end of a brutal and immoral regime, it demonstrated the utter futility of government attempts to impose arbitrary constraints on people. The wall had been built to stop East Germans escaping to the West. It became hopelessly ineffective: in 1989 alone about 200,000 East Germans fled before it fell.
So the communists gave up. On 9 November they started dismantling it, hoping in vain their travel concession might stem the flow of disaffected ‘comrades’. The truth was, by 1989 the intellectual and economic poverty of communism had become apparent even to its handmaidens. In the next couple of years the German Democratic Republic, and indeed the entire Soviet empire, imploded.
The grey, monolithic communism that seeped out of Russia is no longer. But its intellectual impulses remain. Indeed, the recent financial crisis has invigorated them. Now, calls for governments to ‘ensure financial stability’ and ‘create jobs’ are pervasive. The public’s almost total acquiescence in these aims is even more worrying. Popular desires for such ‘stability’ were what provided public support for communism in the first place.
The challenge for liberals (in all senses) is first to highlight how paper money, the massive expansion of credit, artificially low interest rates and government subsidies to housing caused the GFC. And second, to show how making society more capitalist, rather than less, is the best way to equip ourselves against the scourge of socialism. In any case, copious new economic regulations will be as effective, and damaging, as the Berlin Wall.