Wilhelm Röpke’s Political Economy

Wilhelm Röpke’s Political Economy

Samuel Gregg

Wilhelm Röpke is best known for his decisive intellectual contributions to the economic reforms that took post-war West Germany from ruin to riches within a decade. In this informative book, Samuel Gregg presents Röpke as a sophisticated économiste-philosophe in the tradition of Adam Smith, who was as much concerned with exploring and reforming the moral, social and intellectual foundations of the market economy, as he was in examining subjects such as business-cycles, trade-policy, inflation, employment, and the welfare state. By situating Röpke’s ideas in the history of modern Western economic thought, Samuel Gregg illustrates that while Röpke’s ‘neoliberalism’ departed from much nineteenth-century classical liberal thought, it was also profoundly anti-Keynesian and contested key aspects of the post-war Keynesian economic consensus.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Samuel Gregg

Subjects: economics and finance, history of economic thought, political economy, politics and public policy, political economy

Extract

The current world crisis could never have grown to such proportions, nor proved as stubborn, if it had not been for the many forces at work to undermine the intellectual and moral foundations of our social system and thereby eventually to cause the collapse of the economic system indissolubly connected with the social system as a whole. Not withstanding all the harshness and imperfections of our economic system, which cry out for reform, it is a miracle of technology and organization; but it is condemned to waste away if its three cardinal conditions – reason, peace, and freedom – are no longer thought desirable by the masses ruthlessly reaching for power. Wilhelm Röpke, ‘End of an Era’ ([1933d] 1969, p. 80) When Wilhelm Röpke spoke these words in a public address at Frankfurt am Main on 8 February 1933, he knew that he was sealing his professional fate. None of his listeners would have doubted who Röpke had in mind by ‘the masses reaching for power’. Only nine days before, Weimar Germany’s second and last President, Field-Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, appointed the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party, Adolf Hitler, as Reich Chancellor of Germany. From Röpke’s perspective, the Nazis’ accession to government office was a disaster. As a decorated World War I veteran, a young distinguished academic and, importantly, not Jewish, Röpke could have easily conformed to the new regime’s demands and perhaps risen to high office in the Third Reich. But Röpke...