The fall of the Berlin Wall was the most momentous event I had witnessed to that point in my life. The Wall had been built, not to prevent West Germans from sneaking across to obtain the state housing, guaranteed employment, or universal health care provided by the communist government of East Germany, but to staunch the flood of East Germans to West Germany.
The Wall demarcated the prison camp of the Eastern Bloc and came to symbolize the depravity of Communism and its collectivist brethren. It’s fall–20 years ago today–seemed to portend a bright future, and it has certainly been followed by a massive spread of prosperity and liberalization. Yet, 20 years later, the promise of that day is largely unrealized. The world still clings to the fundamental philosophy that built the wall and made it necessary: the idea that we are all born owing a debt to other men and–far from being a debt one can pay through hard work and creativity–the greater one’s success, the greater one’s debt.
But man is an end in himself, with no higher purpose than to earn his own happiness and no obligations except those he chooses. No man is the means to another’s ends, and until the world learns this, it will continue to build walls.
Photo: Peter Fechter at the Berlin Wall (August 17, 1962)