Why no celebration of 1989, the most liberating year in two milleniums of human history?

Reason Magazine editor Matt Welch poses the arresting question in the headline above in the November number of his rightly esteemed publication. It is a timely and important essay entitled “The Unknown War,” which bookends perfectly with the Weekly Standard piece by Charles Krauthammer, “Decline is a choice.”

It was an eleven-week period in 1989 in which a sequence of events that started with the Communist Party of Hungary's decision to stop policing its border with the Free World culminated in the incredible spectacle of East and West Berliners jointly bringing down the wall that so coldly symbolized communist repression.

For those involved in recent decades in the struggle for individual liberty – or in opposing Leviathan, if you prefer – those weeks were intoxicating and miraculous, especially the phenomenal hours in which the Berlin Wall was crumbled. I still vividly recall watching the TV incredulously and thinking to myself that never in my life had I ever before expected to actually see that moment. After all, it had been a mere 25 years since Ronald Reagan delivered “A time for choosing,” the address that captured me and millions more on the side of freedom.

It was intoxicating because it meant no more Gulag and no more barbed wire fences keeping people enslaved to the false god of communism. It meant no more Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. It meant the way was clear for freedom to flower all over the globe as hundreds of millions of people who had suffered for so long were now liberated.

So, yes, why don't we celebrate so remarkable a year, Welch asks. And in two succinct paragraphs he further ties that query directly into our current day in a manner that ought to inspire serious reflection – and subsequent action – among all who care about what the next two decades might hold for the cause of freedom:


“In the long fight between Karl Marx and Milton Friedman, even the democratic socialists of Europe had to admit that Friedman won in a landslide. Although media attention was rightly focused on the dramatic economic changes transforming Asia and the former East Bloc, fully half of the world’s privatization in the first dozen years after the Cold War, as measured by revenue, took place in Western Europe. European political and monetary integration, widely derided as statist by the Anglo-American right, has turned out to be one of the biggest engines for economic liberty in modern history. It was no accident that, in the midst of Washington’s illegal and ill-fated bailout of U.S. automakers, Swedish Enterprise Minister Maud Olofsson, when asked about the fate of struggling Saab, tersely announced, 'The Swedish state is not prepared to own car factories.'
“When Western Europeans are giving lectures to Americans about the dangers of economic intervention, as they have repeatedly since Barack Obama took office, it’s a good time to take stock of how drastically geopolitical arguments have pivoted during the last two decades. The United States, at least as represented by its elected officials and their economic policies, is no longer leading the global fight for democratic capitalism as the most proven path to human liberation. You are more likely to see entitlement reform in Rome than in Washington (where, against the global grain, the federal government is trying to extend its role). Even the much-ballyhooed and well-earned U.S. peace dividend proved to be as temporary as Bill Clinton’s claim that 'the era of big government is over.'”
Make time this evening to read the entirety of Matt's essay. Besides the provocative question at its center, the piece also opens a window on the utter inadequacy of American reporting on European politics and policy developments since the fall of the Soviet Union and the liberation of Eastern Europe, and thus sheds more light on the obsolescence of the Obama administration's approach to American and European relationships.

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