The Great Wall of China snakes over mountains and along rivers across the Asian continent. Made of earth and stone, faced with brick, and bristling formidably with forty-foot watchtowers about every two hundred yards, it was initiated around 221 BC to deter bands of nomadic raiders. The wall was fortified and extended throughout the succeeding centuries, especially during the Ming dynasty (AD 1386—1644), and mostly by slave labor.
As I considered this wall (the only human structure visible from outer space) on a recent trip to China, I was struck by the colossal waste of human energy and intelligence it symbolizes. To build a wall only to keep the rest of the world out, to divide China from the whole of the human family–how much better to have applied that ingenuity to bridges of commerce rather than walls of isolation! Despite its architectural magnificence, the Great Wall is, in the end, a great monument to statism.
Standing on that wall, I was taken back to a different century on another continent–nineteenth-century France. In that place at that time, the statesman-philosopher Frederic Bastiat formulated strong arguments that the world–and human beings–should be approached not in terms of divisions but of harmonies. He envisioned a world in which individuals, with their varied talents, perspectives, and abilities, come to depend on each other, working in harmony for their mutual improvement. And this cooperation, which can develop and flourish only in a truly free society, is exactly what a morally-ordered market economy fosters. The only way to a peaceful future is across such bridges of commerce.
Your support of the Acton Institute over the past ten years has allowed us to bring the message of a free and virtuous society to places such as China; I look forward to your ongoing support as we continue this important endeavor.
Fr. Robert A. Sirico