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The lasting relevance of Wilhelm Röpke

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The 20th century is considered one of the deadliest centuries in history. Collectivism and consolidation of power took flight, resulting in some of the most atrocious violations of human rights the world has ever witnessed. One economist was instrumental in analyzing the cause of such atrocities while offering an antidote to the worldviews in which they were rooted, in hopes that we might not once again be lured by similar false promises of socialism.

Published in 1958 and later translated into English in 1960 as A Humane Economy, Wilhelm Röpke’s book Jenseits von Angebot und Nachfrage, or “Beyond Supply and Demand,” helped shape many minds in fusing together a right understanding of the human person and the value of the free market economy. “A Humane Economy was about as far removed from a dry economics textbook as one could have imagined,” writes Samuel Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research. “It was also unapologetically normative in its content, combining the conservative’s emphasis upon order with the classical liberal’s attention to liberty. The damage inflicted by socialism and Keynesianism upon such values is central to Röpke’s censure of these models of political economy.”

Röpke aptly combined an understanding of ethics and economics, declaring that “the latter cannot do without human values.”  Gregg writes at the close of his piece that “[a]t a time when the Left seems hell-bent upon stigmatizing that civilization’s philosophical and religious roots, and even eradicating them in the name of “respect-tolerance-diversity-equality,” the deepest messages of Röpke’s A Humane Economy seem more relevant than ever.”

Read Gregg’s article, “Was Wilhelm Röpke the First Fusionist?” published by Law and Liberty.

Photo: Wilhelm Röpke (credit: Sueddeutsche Zeitung/alamy.com)

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Caroline Roberts has a B.A. in English from Grove City College and produces the Acton Institute’s podcast, Acton Line.

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