It was a wall – guarded by armed men – meant to keep people from voting with their feet. It was a nearly impervious barrier that embodied collectivism’s sophistication (brute and brutal force) and collectivism’s ethos (individual human beings must live for the collective – in practice, for the state – and deserve to die if they refuse).
Soviet-style communism was among history’s most barbarous manifestations of humankind’s fatal attraction to collectivism. As such, it was also among history’s most honest and revealing manifestations of this attraction. The Berlin Wall was concrete, solid, visible. The armed-guards’ guns were metal, loaded, visible.
I am not among those who believe that society loses its civility and sacrifices its right to call itself free merely because the state that lords over it is more intrusive and powerful than a night-watchman state. I am not among those who believe that a state more intrusive and powerful than a night-watchman state necessarily, or even likely, condemns the citizens of the territory over which it rules to a future that can appropriately be called “tyranny” – at least as long as we have the actual historical benchmarks of the various People’s Paradises engineered by the likes of Stalin, Mao, and Castro.
But I also am not among those who believe that just because the governments of, say, the United States and of France are not as brutal as were the governments of the U.S.S.R. and of China, that the obligations and prohibitions that Washington and Paris foist on their citizens are not properly described as manifestations of “force.”
That Uncle Sam does not use force as consistently, as openly, and brutally as did the government of the U.S.S.R. does not thereby excuse most of the force that Uncle Sam’s does unleash in his effort to interfere with people’s peaceful choices and actions. Nor does it make Uncle Sam’s many uses of force something other than of force.
These facts aren’t altered significantly by the fact that Americans enjoy (if that’s the right word) a wide franchise.
One of the many dangerous delusions that too many people suffer today is the delusion that tells them that as long as ‘their’ government is democratically elected – and as long as ‘their’ government largely refrains from using brutality openly and of the sort that was routine in 20th-century hells such as the U.S.S.R. and East Germany – then ‘their’ government is largely civilized and an agent for Good for The People.