The Power of Ideas

Today marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the most thrilling event of my lifetime: when oppressed individuals came together and laid claim to their birthright of liberty.

Also known as “The fall of the Berlin Wall.”

It wasn’t supposed to have happened this way. “Everyone” knew the Soviet Union was the strongman. The intellectuals dismissed historian Robert Conquest’s portrayal of a corrupt and tyrannous system, and Paul Craig Robert’s prescient exposure of the myth of central planning. Communism was the darling of the western cultural elites.

And yet the change came from no political “messiah,” no elections, no liberating army.

It was simply the full flowering on an idea: individuals latching onto the idea “We are free,” and rejecting the message “You are slaves.” They withheld their consent to be ruled. Their rulers blinked, and utterly collapsed—morally bankrupt.

While those brave souls celebrating at the Berlin Wall may not have appreciated fully the idea that each of us is born with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property, they embraced the idea enough to peacefully topple the modern era’s most powerful tyrant.

Ought not we as heirs of the Declaration of Independence find it so much easier to claim our birthright and turn back incursions on our liberties?

The State and its claims are just ideas. Liberty is the better one.

Spread the good news, be a shining example of how one lives in community with free and equal people, seize every opportunity of standing and speaking against claims against our liberty. Let’s live purposefully, topple every “Berlin Wall” erected against freedom, and unleash the full flowering of human potential in peaceful, prosperous, and free societies everywhere.

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
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