Ted Malloch: The Antidote to Globalism–A Better More Localized Economy
Do you recognize this man?
Many people, particularly on the North American side of the Atlantic, have never heard of Wilhelm Ropke, there is an umlaut over the o.
That is a shame since he is one of the most important economists of the twentieth century; a true Renaissance man, a polymath, and a father of the ‘economic miracle,’ after WWII.
His thinking is particularly valuable today as we move away from globalism and corporatism and return to more local supply chains, give greater significance to small and medium sized businesses, and toward a humane economy.
Ropke displayed unique moral courage.
He was often politically incorrect, and was perhaps the sharpest critic of the failure of Keynesianism, ever.
Ludwig Erhard claimed he “illegally obtained Ropke’s books …which I absorbed as the desert drinks life-giving water.” (His classic, The Humane Economy was translated into English in 1952).
Read it for free here.
Ropke, a full professor at the early age of 24, was also the first German professor to lose his job in 1933 when the Nazis came to power.
They despised him, as did the communnists.
As an exile that would not cave in to Hitler and the SS, he never returned to his native land, living instead in the cantons of Switzerland that practiced what he preached
Less well known to the English-speaking world than Hayek, Mises, or Friedman, there have been few book length treatments on his contributions, although numerous biographies exist.
As the intellectual author of Europe’s post-World War II economic resurrection, Ropke is an under-appreciated thinker who informed policymaking.
We could use it today!
He could rightly be called a Smithian (Adam Smith, that is), as he was adamantly against the unlimited power of the State.
Put positively, he was much more.
Ropke was an ‘economic humanist’ of the first order.
He historically showed how the Great Depression came to limit economics as a science and how collectivism is incompatible with authentic human freedom.
This is unquestioningly an exercise in historical recovery that is also much needed today.
Four subjects concerned Ropke up until his early death in 1966.
They are: the challenge of business cycles, the unending growth of the welfare state, full employment and inflation, and international economic relations.
Ropke’s political economy was attuned to ‘interdependence,’ where empirical analysis is not separated from normative judgment.
With a profound focus on “human flourishing,” Ropke was enlightened beyond today’s narrowly trained economists and econometricians because of his scope and vast intellectual and multidisciplinary horizons.
By returning modern economics to the Aristotelian realm of ethics from which it originally emerged, Ropke achieved a new synthesis.
For him the market economy allowed people to exercise their ‘natural liberty’—rooted in the Christian realism of St. Augustine.
As part of the pro-market Austrian School, as opposed to the Historical School, Ropke can be best placed in the context of other major modern economic thinkers such as Eucken, Rustow, Bohm and Miller-Armack.
Breaking with the dirigiste past together they sought to articulate an economy rightly framed on order.
For them economics was a normative social science.
They discerned values beyond utility.
This is a style of political economy that needs to find a revival as it is sorely lacking in today’s boring mathematized treatments and small gauge discussions about trends in data.
It is something we need if we are to overcome the ‘economism’ of the present and to reengage true human flourishing.
For Ropke, economics unfortunately often occupied a “restricted vision.”
This view parallels the better-known thoughts of Hayek, who likewise warned about the scientism of economics and was an equally harsh critic of Lord Keynes and his overly ardent followers, favoring constant government intervention.
Both witnessed what they called “the failure of intellectuals” and their near total surrender to the evils of socialism portrayed as a ‘road to serfdom’ inhabited, if not dictated by arrogant government bureaucrats.
With liberty constantly under attack, Ropke’s ‘Christian Humanism’ is a perfect antidote or remedy to the crisis that abounds and surrounds us on every front—in both Europe and America.
It appears even more urgent given our most recent economic collapse and massive government interventions cum bailouts.
Ropke would appreciate the unleashing of deregulation and the economic growth rooted in freedom we are evidencing in the US today — but he would go much further.
Many of our politicians, especially the Marxist Democrats, still seem plagued with an incessant belief in what Ropke termed, “the folly of human perfectibility.”
Our newly anointed Leftist political saviors have an unflinching belief in the State to solve all our problems and cure all our ills.
If only they knew.
If only they had read and been taught by Ropke.
There are clear connections to the Scottish Enlightenment thinking in Ropke’s opus.
Ropke sought to avert welfare statism but held a conservative attachment to tradition, especially to the all important, mediating structures of civilized life.
These include for him; the family, the school, civic association, churches and temples, and the local community.
Ropke realized that the space between the Individual and the all-powerful State is where life is actually lived.
This variety of what is called, Ordoliberalism owes a great debt to the Scottish Enlightenment.
Indeed, this tension between social conservatism on one side, and economic liberalism, even in Republican politics, continues into our present era.
Until it is resolved—perhaps by reemploying the likes of Ropke or his seminal ideas, we will be one-handed and fail to see the full dimensions of ordered liberty.
Such division also undercuts potential conservative political power – unnecessarily dividing it into two warring camps, of social vs. economic conservatism.
A cohesive model of the market economy and its social dimensions offers a useful and viable alternative.
Trump seems to be going down this path.
We seriously need to bring back interest in both Ropke and his ‘Humane Economy.’
We would all be the beneficiaries, especially those critical of the Left and of the Keynesian models that have led to damaging globalism and the elitism of the Party of Davos.