Spanish – The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, is one of the most memorable events of the second half of the 20th century. The images recorded by thousands of cameras and repeated to infinity by television channels around the globe moved, not only as a record of a historical moment of high impact, but above all as symbols of the courage, energy, and joys of freedom.
A year later, another event, this time of a legal nature, followed this highly emotional one. This event is now 30 years old. On October 3, 1990, the two Germanies officially agreed on their unity, marking a before and after for their history, that of Europe, and that of the entire world.
In a context of pandemic restrictions, Germany celebrates today the Day of German Unity, an event that we can also analyze from a Latin American perspective, drawing two major lessons:
Lesson #1: Development goes hand in hand with freedom
Firstly, for anyone who holds the most basic of intellectual honesty, the secession of Germany exposes the differences in living standards and well-being between a regime that respects individual freedoms and one that curtails them. The complete failure of centralized planning of the economy to provide a minimum of welfare and happiness was evident.
As revealed by the Index of Economic Freedom published annually by the Heritage Foundation, those countries with the greatest respect for individual rights, protection of private property, contractual freedom, the lowest tax burden, and reasonable levels of public spending are the most prosperous. Always. Currently, several countries at the bottom of that list are Latin American.
Lesson #2: Walls can be torn down
Over the past 50 years at least, Latin America has oscillated back and forth between left and right-wing regimes, but with a clear predominance of statist ideologies more akin, in that sense, to the political character of East Germany. There have been exceptions- the brief periods or governments more oriented towards the ideas of freedom, such as those of President Sebastián Piñera in the Republic of Chile, elected twice, or President Luis Lacalle Pou in the Oriental Republic of Uruguay.
The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, recently admitted that some restrictions implemented in the course of the COVID-19 crisis made her remember her childhood in communist Germany. Could we make this comparison between East Germany and Argentina, for example? Of course, we could.
In economic matters, both companies and individuals rush to plan a departure from the country “before it is too late.” From multinationals such as Coca Cola to hundreds – or perhaps thousands – of individuals are considering “jumping over the pond.” Attracted by the policies and tax benefits implemented by Lacalle Pou’s government, they are asking about opportunities to settle on the other side of the Río de la Plata.
The Latin American balance
If the process of the fall of the wall and the reunification of Germany has taught us anything, it is that the loss of freedom is not necessarily an irrevocable fate. All that is needed is for statesmen to emulate Ronald Reagan and his famous phrase “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” to exercise the power to captivate us and call us to challenge totalitarianism. If Latin America aspires to prosper, it is necessary to learn, like Germany, to tear down walls.