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 8: Between Humanism and Social Science

Samuel Gregg

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


Wilhelm Röpke exhausted himself offering – to those trapped in socialist– collectivist thought, to those unable to escape such thought, to all those involved in the constitution or glorification of the totalitarian state, to those who have comfortably excused themselves from responsibility or pangs of conscience – words of transformation, offering them once more firm ground under their feet and an inner faith in the value and blessings of freedom, justice and morality. Ludwig Erhard (1967, p. 22) One of the last articles penned by Wilhelm Röpke before his death in 1966 – ‘L’état dépensier’ (1967b) – was published posthumously in a collection of essays honoring his friend and fellow economist Jacques Rueff. Rueff’s life and work enjoyed curious parallels to Röpke’s own odyssey. Like Röpke, Rueff devoted much time to rethinking economic liberalism, most notably in L’ordre social (1945) but also stood firmly against the postwar Keynesian consensus. Both men served as advisors to governments, with Rueff spending much of his career in a variety of official positions. Each played a vital role in saving their countries from an economic abyss. Ten years after Röpke helped to prepare the way for West Germany’s economic liberalization, France adopted Rueff’s proposals (known as the Rueff–Pinay Plan) for economic reform in 1958. These successfully balanced France’s national budget and secured the franc’s convertibility. Intellectually Röpke and Rueff shared an unwillingness to be constrained by disciplinary boundaries. Neither accepted the fragmentation of economics as a moral and social...

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