Chapter 8: Between Humanism and Social Science
8. Between humanism and social science 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...
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