By Robert Higgs
Today many people are celebrating the 25th anniversary of one of the most momentous events of the post-World II era — the fall of the Berlin Wall. Although such celebration is entirely in order, inasmuch as that wall was perhaps the most notorious symbol of all modern attempts to make human beings slaves to the state, we would do well to recognize that the so-called free societies in which Americans and Europeans, among others, now live are themselves in an important sense divided by thousands of ugly little Berlin Walls, restrictions on liberty that, like the paradigmatic wall in East Germany, amount to statements that anyone who attempts to go where the state has told him he may not go is risking the state’s resort to violence to enforce its edicts, no matter how unjust, arbitrary, and senseless those edicts may be and often are.
Anyone who doubts my characterization has clearly not spent much time pondering the contents of the US Code, the Code of Federal Regulations, and the reports of federal court decisions or the substance of the corresponding walls erected by all the state and local governments in this manifestly unfree land. In view of these documents, I do not hesitate to state that you, whoever you are, are subject to thousands of commands — some affirmative, some prohibitive — of which you are entirely ignorant. The existence of these officially unbreachable walls means that state officials possess the legal power to punish you, whether to serve their own interests or simply on whims, in countless ways that will ruin your life. Each day thousands of American prosecutors and regulators occupy themselves in precisely such pointless ruination of their fellow citizens’ lives. This situation is light years apart from anything that deserves to be called a free society.
So, although — glory be to God — the Berlin Wall was reduced to rubble 25 years ago, that demolition amounted to the merest beginning of the demolition required to challenge the tyrants and restore the liberty to which every human being is justly entitled.