Wilhelm Röpke’s Political Economy
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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.
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Chapter 7: A Liberal International Economy

Samuel Gregg


It is, indeed, doubtful whether the development of modern world economy can be satisfactorily explained without due reference to the Pax Britannica . . . But parallel to the rise of the British Empire went a much more important development, which really explains why the international economic integration of our time has been possible in spite of the absence of a world state and its powerful socio-political framework. This is the spread of a commonly accepted ordre public international, based on international standards of conduct in peace and war, and a network of international treaties or unwritten rules of international law, which were respected because there was an undisputed moral code behind them. Wilhelm Röpke (1942h, p. 73) The history of economic liberalism embodies an ambiguous view of international political economy. Razeen Sally contrasts the centrality of international economic relations to eighteenth-century thinkers such as Smith who devoted Book IV of his Wealth of Nations to this subject, with its relatively peripheral treatment by twentieth-century classical liberals such as Hayek (1998, pp. 4–5). Among twentieth-century economic liberals, Röpke stands out for his detailed attention to international economic relations, but also for his immersion of these issues in reflections upon political thought, contemporary developments and the history of ideas. This may reflect Röpke’s extraordinary range of intellectual interests, his command of classical and modern languages, and his sociological inclinations. Then there was the impact of personal experiences. ‘My adult life’, Röpke wrote retrospectively, ‘began with a crisis of international...

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