What a year 2015 has been. It's seen the greatest outbreak of freedom since 1989, that annus mirabilis, year of wonders, when freedom was breaking out the world over. First the Iron Curtain collapsed, to be followed shortly thereafter by the implosion of the late and unlamented Soviet Union -- and not just the Cold War was over but the dangerous, decades-long nuclear arms race with it.
Those of us who had grown up with the occasionally hot Cold War as a permanent fixture of the daily news could scarcely believe this brave new world opening all 'round us. We had lived through the 13-day Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 day by day, hour by hour, as the world wondered what nuclear misadventure Fidel Castro would push Nikita Khrushchev into next, and could scarcely believe the Soviet empire was going, going ... and would soon be gone.
What, the Soviet Union wouldn't be around forever? Why, "everybody knew" the best the world could hope for was a perilous "co-existence" that might stop existing any day. Now the whole Cold War era was closing. Fast. We could scarcely believe the almost unbearable lightness all around. The ramifications of that miraculous year 1989 were felt even in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, where one lone, already free man standing in front of a long line of tanks came to symbolize the unquenchable spirit of freedom. And now 2015 has rivaled that miraculous year 1989 for good news:
• This was the year Syria's years-long civil war, which had sent waves of death and destruction throughout the Middle East and beyond, finally came to an end with the fall of Bashir al-Assad and his replacement by a provisional government dedicated to peace and security. A world that had long ignored the carnage there finally roused itself and united in the twin causes of peace and freedom. Even the United Nations woke up and took forceful action to secure the peace and assure a new birth of freedom in long-tortured Syria.
• This was the year the Castro brothers' sordid dictatorship in Cuba finally collapsed, too, once Washington restored diplomatic relations and trade with the Cuba. Then came a peaceful invasion of American tourists, diplomats and businessmen spreading not just prosperity but democratic ideas. Free trade led to free elections, and free elections to ˇCuba Libre! at last. This outbreak of freedom was midwifed by good Pope Francis, just as John Paul the Great had joined Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the troika that led to the end of Soviet oppression in Europe back in 1989. Viva il papa!
• This was the year even the Kims' brutal dynasty in North Korea finally fell -- a process that began when Pyongyang's hackers were smoked out after practicing a little cyber-terrorism against an American film studio, which suddenly woke up and remembered it had a backbone. And so did Washington.
• This was the year that the full impact of the shale-oil revolution begun long ago by a Texas wildcatter named George Mitchell came to full fruition with the approval and opening of the long-stalled Keystone XL pipeline that brought American and Canadian oil to the Gulf and the world markets beyond. Despite an economically illiterate American president who had stood in the way for years, the oil gushed, gas prices plummeted, economies the world over were revivified, especially in the poorest countries, and petro-dictatorships from Saudi Arabia to Russia to Venezuela shuddered to their rotten roots.
• This was the year the dollar grew strong, the ruble collapsed, the oil sheiks were confounded, and stock markets in the free and growing ever freer world set new records. Then more investment led to more jobs in country after country, especially in poorer ones. Shale oil and gas proved not just an economic but a diplomatic boon as freedom gushed along with the oil.
This was the year American freedom -- and resilience -- proved more than a match for the usual big-government theorists who had produced only stagnation not just in the economy but in ideas. This was the year even Paul Krugman saw the light and converted from the dead-end Keynesian economics he'd been preaching for years to Milton Friedman's brand of economic freedom with prosperity on top. Ideas have consequences, and the consequences of freedom's triumph this year are still being felt around the world.
• This was the year freedom of speech made a dramatic comeback on American campuses as one Ivy League school after another dropped its gag rules and Speech Codes, and let freedom ring. Gone were the vast and overpaid bureaucracies established at our most prestigious universities to enforce conformity in the name of diversity. Even distinguished conservatives were suddenly persona grata at commencement exercises instead of being shunned. Open debate returned to university life with full and renewed vigor.
• This was the year even the IRS dismantled its Nixon-style enemies' list of right-wing and pro-Israel groups that had been targeted for special (and especially unfavorable) treatment under the tax code. Lois Lerner was gone and with her a lame-duck president's Thought Police.
• This was the year the two great boom-and-bust artists known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose inflationary schemes set off the financial Panic of 2008-'09 with the help of hedge funds and other speculators, followed by the Great Recession of the last decade, were finally interred. Honest loans and free enterprise returned to the housing market, which regained its sanity after years of bipolar fluctuations.
• This was the year the Glass-Steagall Act, one of the great achievements of FDR's New Deal, was reinstated after its repeal during the Clinton administration. The old wall was restored between ordinary, essential commercial banking and "investment banking" -- a polite euphemism for government-financed speculation. Suddenly the speculators had clear limits again instead of a jumble of Dodd-Frank regulations that were as unintelligible as they were voluminous in their still unformed powers. Sanity returned. Everybody knew the plain and simple rules of the game again, and now speculators would have to gamble with their own money, not the taxpayers'.
• This was the year ... and then I woke up with a start. It was December 31, 2014, not 2015. Ah, well, a fellow can dream, can't he? But dreams are not in vain. For if we will it, it is no dream. So keep the good thought, which at this optimistic season can be summed up as: Happy New Year!