14A055 Walls Fall by Jim Davies, 11/9/2014    

 

November, 1989 is a month I'll always remember.

The 5th was a Sunday, and it began like any other Guy Fawkes Day, with fine weather. At mid-morning, my mother called from England to say that Dad had just had a heart attack and was in hospital, with a poor prognosis. By day's end, he had died. So the family was assembled from three states to cross the ocean for his funeral. Pianist Vladimir Horowitz died the same day.

Four days later, British TV showed us the astonishing pictures, now very familiar; the great wall that had divided Germany since 1961 was crumbling, and joyful Berlin crowds were clambering over its ruins and celebrating. For nearly all his life, Dad had lived in a world threatened by the Soviet Empire; by four days, he just missed sight of the start of its collapse. History had just taken a sharp turn for the better.

Eric Margolis was a reporter close to some of the key players, and wrote last week of some of the things that were not known so publicly; that much credit is due to Gorbachov but less than we thought, to Mitterand and Thatcher. However he doesn't mention the part played by von Mises; 67 years earlier in his Socialism, he had foreseen that collapse and given the reason it was inevitable; that prices are concealed by that system. I don't recall anyone mentioning that in 1989 as a reason the Wall fell. But he was right.

When freely moving prices are hidden because government decrees what shall be charged, nobody can know what to produce or in what quantity; the whole delicate balance of demand, supply and pricing is smashed and the entire economy is thrown off kilter. Mises saw clearly that therefore, socialism could not possibly work; and it never did. The ink in his book was hardly dry when Lenin was obliged to introduce his New Economic Policy, and a few years later the abundant harvests of Russia and Ukraine were so poor that Stalin stole them from the latter and left eleven million farmers to starve to death.

For half a century the Empire was then sustained by injections of assistance from the West, before during and after the "Great Patriotic War" in which people were motivated not by love of communism but by that notorious refuge of scoundrels, love of Nation; "Mother Russia." One of them in seven died; for comparison, the disastrous American War to Prevent Secession killed one person in sixty. Finally in 1989, the tired old machine could lumber no longer.

Today in Berlin the fallen wall is to be celebrated, 25 years on, with a beautiful symbolism; glowing balloons, marking ten miles of where that city was divided and at some moment released into the air, marking the release of those imprisoned by government in the East. That's one news report I shall make a point of watching. Thanks to Wired magazine for a fine account of this Lichtgrenze, and congrats to its designers, the brothers Christopher and Marc Bauder.

Each of the 8,000 balloons will be released (together, I hope) by a person. That's a nice touch to the ceremony. The Mauerfall didn't happen because pompous Pols sat down and decided it was time to end the restriction, but because ordinary people had had enough and wouldn't take it any more; and because the border guards declined to open fire as the crowds surged on to the Wall and hammered it to bits - one of which adorns the bookshelf beside me as I write. Individuals brought it down, and key among them were men who would no longer work for government.

That's also how the far bigger and stronger wall, which imprisons all of us in a government slave plantation, will be demolished; by individuals, deciding we won't have it any more. In particular, those engaged in government work will need to quit, like the East German border guards quit on 11/5/89. All that can happen only if everyone, those included, learn why need to take that action.

Berliners learned well enough that communism does not work, that the relative freedom of the West produced a far higher standard of life; they learned it from West German TV, and from every letter they received from relatives there, and from what their eyes told them when they peered across the Wall. That government of any kind doesn't work either and that total freedom will take all that and square it, is less obvious, not so easy to learn; and that's where you and I come in, with a little gentle teaching.

But when the job is done, a little while hence, the celebrations when government evaporates will outshine by a thousand times even the brightness of today's Berlin.

 
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