The twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall is an opportunity to remind ourselves that reality will always prevail over those who would rationalize against it. Every regime constructed by men who seek to force their views on other men is doomed to failure. Sometimes failure takes centuries or as in the case of Ancient Egypt, millennia. In the context of our own brief lives, or a generation or two, it may seem to occur faster when history places us in such close proximity to a seminal event. The Berlin Wall construction began in August 1961.
The Berlin Wall was erected to keep people in, not out. Individuals have one idea about how they want to act. Collectivists have quite another to impose upon them. What determines the right of action? Rights are a discovery of man about his nature. Rights are claims to action only and thus offer no guarantees of a satisfactory outcome. Rights are also political since they pertain to relations among men. From this arises the discovery that rights are held uniformly and not in competition with other men. There are no other kinds of rights, and the degree to which a society accepts this fact is a measure of its political and moral sophistication.
The collectivists who created the divided city gave the world a laboratory with a controlled experiment in rights to action. On one side the Berliners of the West were relatively free to act and prospered proportionately. The East Berlin utopia of central planning and political control over individual action combined to create a slave state of people kept in economic misery and political tyranny. The East Germans looked at their freer neighbours in the West and at least 254 officially died in the attempt to escape and join them.
The imposition of one’s ideas on another by force requires a system of slavery. To the extent you are not free to act peacefully is the extent to which you are enslaved by the will of others who prevent your actions without their permission, or punish you for transgressions. It is a matter of degree. There is a certain paralysis of ignorance that sets into the general population of a society when political freedom is incrementally rather than suddenly curtailed. Thus, many cannot see tyranny’s creeping onset.
The obsession with so-called economic rights begun in the US by the Roosevelt administration some sixty-five years ago is once again at the forefront of US administration policy. There are many politicians promoting the ideas that everyone has “rights” to a good paying job, decent affordable housing, medical care, and education. Such “rights” can only be satisfied by the use of force against others. None of these things exist in nature. They are economic goods or services that require the actions of men to produce them. That’s why rights are rights to action. Thus, the only way some men have a “right” to any of these goods and services is if they are taken from other men who have acted to produce them. Those producers must be enslaved in order to provide for the “rights” or “entitlements” of others.
Over time, since the human mind does not function well under coercion, enslaved producers lose the incentive to act, exhibiting an intensifying paralysis as the social system fails. More force and controls are then applied by the likes of “czars” and others who think they know better than individual producers. The Bible offers that “he who will not work will not eat”. Leon Trotsky adapted this to say “he who will not obey will not eat”.
Be careful for what you wish. Political freedom is a matter of degree. The communists of the former Soviet Union tried to create a utopia by violent force. Some Americans are trying to create one with benevolent intent. They will fail. It is only a matter of time.
©Copyright 2009 Edward Podritske