A VERY GOOD QUESTION - AT 9:20 A.M. ET: It was 20 years ago that the Soviet empire finally collapsed. And yet, as Matt Welch points out in Reason magazine, we hardly note it. But why? Why don't we celebrate, as we commemorate the end of German and Japanese fascism in World War II?
On August 23, 1989, officials from the newly reformed and soon-to-be-renamed Communist Party of Hungary ceased policing the country’s militarized border with Austria. Some 13,000 East Germans, many of whom had been vacationing at nearby Lake Balaton, fled across the frontier to the free world. It was the largest breach of the Iron Curtain in a generation, and it kicked off a remarkable chain of events that ended 11 weeks later with the righteous citizen dismantling of the Berlin Wall.
Twenty years later, the anniversary of that historic border crossing was noted in exactly four American newspapers, according to the Nexis database, and all four mentions were in reprints of a single syndicated column.
I'm willing to bet that there's an entire young generation of journalists who never heard of the events mentioned above.
November 1989 was the most liberating month of arguably the most liberating year in human history, yet two decades later the country that led the Cold War coalition against communism seems less interested than ever in commemorating, let alone processing the lessons from, the collapse of its longtime foe. At a time that fairly cries out for historical perspective about the follies of central planning, Americans are ignoring the fundamental conflict of the postwar world...
Gee, I wonder why. You don't think the press is...tilted, do you? Nah. Not our journalists. Why, every time I turn on MSNBC I marvel at the balance and thoughtfulness.
The consensus Year of Revolution for most of our lifetimes has been 1968, with its political assassinations, its Parisian protests, and a youth-culture rebellion that the baby boomers will never tire of telling us about.
Yeah, I'm afraid that's it. Painted jeans trump a collapsing Berlin wall every time.
There were only 69 electoral democracies in 1989; by 2008 their ranks had swelled to 119.
That occurred on America's watch, Mr. President. No apologies necessary. And maybe it's time for you to acknowledge the contributions of George W. Bush.
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.
And now we are going in the other direction. Real smart.
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).
Not change we can believe in. That comes after next year's election.
October 13, 2009