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 3: Economics and the Economist

Samuel Gregg

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


The master-economist must possess a rare combination of gifts. He must reach a high standard in several different directions and must combine talents not often found together. He must be mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher – in some degree. He must understand symbols and speak in words. He must comprehend the particular in terms of the general, and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought. He must study the present in light of the past for the purposes of the future. No part of man’s nature or his institutions must lie entirely outside his regard. He must be purposeful and disinterested in a simultaneous mood; as aloof and incorruptible as an artist, yet sometimes as near the earth as a politician. John Maynard Keynes (1924, pp. 173–4) When Keynes penned these words in his obituary of Alfred Marshall (1842–1924), regarded by many as the doyen of the economics profession of his time, Keynes may have been outlining the type of economist he himself aspired to be. Some were left wondering if anyone was capable of attaining such distinction. More importantly, Keynes’s description provides some insight into what he understood economics to be: a discipline with scientific characteristics, but which depended for its efficacy on the cultivation of particular intellectual and moral habits and certain practical skills. For one whose thought was to reshape radically the direction of economics, Keynes wrote relatively little on the nature and method of economics. Most of Keynes’s views on this subject have...

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