Sunday, April 18, 2010

The inspiration of freedom

Der Spiegel:
[German Chancellor Angela Merkel] was excited, because this speech [before Congress] meant a lot to her. Then she stood up in front of the assembled US representatives and senators and said that because of the Berlin Wall, America had long been "the land of unlimited opportunity" for her. "I had to create my own picture of the United States from films and books, some of which were smuggled in from the West by relatives," she said. "I was passionate about the American dream -- the opportunity for everyone to be successful, to make it in life through their own personal effort."

At the time, she wore Levi's jeans that an aunt had sent her from the West, and because she longed for freedom, she also longed to see the country that had come to embody freedom, the United States. Before the joint session of the US Congress, she said: "There is still nothing that inspires me more, nothing that spurns me on more, nothing that fills me more with positive feelings than the power of freedom."
When Merkel lived in ossified, ailing East Germany, she imagined the West as a realm of efficiency and fantasy, imbued with a spirit of optimism.

After the fall of the wall, she was disappointed by the Federal Republic of Germany, by its bureaucracy, sedateness and fearfulness. She sees the United States as a country that corresponds more closely to notions she once had of the West.
This is partly because she perceives her own life as a typically American, rags-to-riches story. She too has succeeded in making the unlikely journey from East German citizen to German chancellor, partly as a result of luck and partly through her "own hard work."
This reminded of living in Germany while in middle school, and my German friend Andreas expressing to me his desire to go to the U.S. because in Germany there was a stifling level of rules for everything. I was rather surprised by the comment as Germany didn't exactly strike me as a third world hellhole, but with age the comment resonated more. As American liberty slowly gives way to more rules and regulations, I wonder how much longer it will remain a land of freedom which inspires people such as Andreas and Frau Merkel.

In a similar vein, I'd like to highlight this fantastic collection of quotes from some of the founding fathers. It makes apparent, if there was ever any doubt, of just how much they both cherished liberty and freedom and feared unconstrained government. It's a useful reminder that while libertarianism is often derided as a fringe philosophy, it is the intellectual heir to the ideals which this country was founded upon. The choice we currently face is to either return to those ideals of limited government and individual freedom, or to surrender them in exchange for a little bit of safety and the accompanying mediocrity and stagnation which inevitably results.

Just remember, no one has ever been inspired by a Statue of Welfare or the Collective Action Bell.

No comments: