June 12 marks the 25th anniversary of President Reagan’s historic speech at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. Over the objections of advisors who thought the lines were too provocative, President Reagan made a dramatic demand:
There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev—Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
In his speech, Reagan talked about the need to tear down more than just this physical barrier to freedom:
In West Germany and here in Berlin, there took place an economic miracle, the Wirtschaftswunder. Adenauer, Erhard, Reuter, and other leaders understood the practical importance of liberty—that just as truth can flourish only when the journalist is given freedom of speech, so prosperity can come about only when the farmer and businessman enjoy economic freedom. The German leaders reduced tariffs, expanded free trade, lowered taxes. From 1950 to 1960 alone, the standard of living in West Germany and Berlin doubled.
For over a decade, The Heritage Foundation, in partnership with The Wall Street Journal, has tracked the march of economic freedom around the world with the influential Index of Economic Freedom. The data vindicate President Reagan’s 1987 declaration: “After these four decades, then, there stands before the entire world one great and inescapable conclusion: Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor.”