Wilhelm Röpke is one of the most important 20th century economists that almost no Americans know anything about. Fortunately, that may soon change as Röpke’s classic work on economics, A Humane Economy, is being republished by ISI Books with an introduction by Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute.
No, that’s not the name of a new James Bond movie. Rather, it’s a Public Discourse post by Anthony Esolen that discusses society’s ability (and disability) to get a handle on evil actions and morality.
The cry, “You can’t legislate morality” is, of course, false. That is exactly what law does, as Esolen points out.
All laws bear some relation, however distant, to a moral evaluation of good and bad. We cannot escape making moral distinctions. One man’s theft is another man’s redistribution of income. One man’s defense of family honor is another man’s murder. Even people who reduce law to utilitarian calculations cannot evade this truth.
In March 1933, through various political maneuvers, Adolf Hitler successfully suppressed Communist, Socialist, and Catholic opposition to a proposed “Enabling Act,” which allowed him to introduce legislation without first going through parliament, thus by-passing constitutional review. The act would give the German executive branch unprecedented power. “Hitler’s rise to power is a sobering story of how a crisis and calls for quick solutions can tempt citizens and leaders to subvert the rule of law and ignore a country’s constitutional safeguards,” Anthony Bradley writes. The full text of the essay follows. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.