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A Humane Economy: The Social Framework of the Free Market Paperback – June 1, 2014
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"Like a seminar on integral freedom conducted by a professor of uncommon brilliance." Wall Street Journal
"An excellent starting point for the noneconomist reader." First Things
"If any person in our contemporary world is entitled to a hearing it is Wilhelm Röpke." New York Times
About the Author
Wilhelm Röpke (18991966) was a professor of economics and the principal architect of Germany’s postWorld War II "economic miracle."
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This ‘pseudo-religious’ idea from the French Revolution replaces God with the ‘people’.
Preface - “One group of critics will reject the book en bloc because it is in flat contradiction with their more or less collectivist and centrist ideas.”
“Another will tell me that in this book, they really appreciate only what is to be found in the world of supply and demand—the world of property—and not what lies beyond. These are the inveterate rationalists, the hard-boiled economists, the prosaic utilitarians, who may all feel that, given proper guidance, I might perhaps have attained to something better.”
This, broader vision sets Röpke apart.
“Third, there will be those who, on the contrary, blame me for being a hard-boiled economist myself and who will find something worth praising only in that part of the book which deals with the things beyond supply and demand. These are the pure moralists and romantics, who may perhaps cite me as proof of how a pure soul can be corrupted by political economy.”
Nevertheless, he does not dismiss the clear, trenchant insights of economics.
“Finally, there may be a fourth group of readers who take a favorable view of the book as a whole and who regard it as one its virtues to have incurred the disapproval of the other three groups. It would be sheer hypocrisy on my part not confess quite frankly that the last group is my favorite.” —Wilhelm Röpke Geneva, January 1960
Introduction - “Röpke was shaped by his military service in World War 1. That experience had a profound influence on his thought. Initially, Röpke’s anti Nationalism and antiwar positions translated into support for socialism. To his surprise, however, his university studies (especially his study of Mises) led him to conclude that his protest against war and nationalism mandated “a commitment to liberalism in the sphere of international economic relations; in other words, to free trade.” (140)
Mises, Hayek, Wolfe and many traveled the same road.
“The same reaction also aroused in Röpke “a great wariness about the powers of the modern state and, along with this, about the powers of the various pressure groups within the nation.” (140)
This ‘wariness’ is explained in this work.
“His work reflects his long-standing interest in Western intellectual history and his conviction that the seeds of current problems were buried deep in Europe’s past. He saw Hitler’s rise, for example, as part of a wider chain of events, including certain inadequacies in economic liberalism. Similarly, Röpke traced a straight line between France’s Jacobin revolutionaries of the 1790s and the expansive welfare states that began to characterize Western European democracies in the mid-twentieth century.’’ (140)
Many scholars agree with this connection with the French Revolution and modern politics.
“A Humane Economy represents the fullest fruition of Röpke’s “economic humanism” and his critique of mainstream economic thought and practice. Economics, from Röpke’s standpoint, was not an ideology, philosophy, or religion. Instead it was a social science capable of providing society with powerful insights into reality but incapable of encapsulating reality in its entirety.”
His effort to combine both ethics and results creates a fascinating work.
“He opposed collectivist policies not simply because economic science told him they were bound to inflict misery on millions. He also regarded collectivism as incompatible with authentic human freedom. Summarizing his view on economics’ relationship to morality, Röpke wrote: We need a combination of supreme moral sensitivity and economic knowledge. Economically ignorant moralism is as objectionable as morally callous economism.” (182)
Chapter I—REAPPRAISAL AFTER FIFTEEN YEARS
Personal Old and New Vistas
Market Economy and Collectivism
Chapter II—MODERN MASS SOCIETY
Mass and World Population Mass
Acute and Chronic Mass Culture
Mass and Society Boredom and Mass Society
Chapter III—THE CONDITIONS AND LIMITS OF THE MARKET
The Spiritual and Moral Setting
The Asymmetry of the Market Economy
The Political Framework of the Market Economy
Chapter IV—WELFARE STATE AND CHRONIC INFLATION
Limits and Dangers of the Welfare State
The Problem of Social Security in a Free Society
The Welfare State on the International Plane
The Theoretical Background of Chronic Inflation
The Nature of Chronic Inflation Wage Inflation Conclusions and Prospects
Chapter V—CENTRISM AND DECENTRISM
The Dividing Lines in Social Philosophy and Economic Policy
The Web of Human Relations
Reckoning Without Man
''For Röpke, economics was not simply about studying the growth of wealth; it also concerned how to create and use this wealth to facilitate the freedom and happiness of all. Hence, although Röpke regarded positive economic science as having its own worth, he recognized its limits for determining the appropriate course of action in given circumstances. Röpke believed not just that economics ultimately should serve certain values—most notably liberty and order—but also that the economy, like all facets of human existence, is not self-sufficient.''
What is the foundation?
''In A Humane Economy he wrote: The market economy, and with it social and political freedom, can thrive only as a part and under the protection of a bourgeois system. This implies the existence of a society in which certain fundamentals are respected and color the whole network of social relationships: individual effort and responsibility, absolute norms and values, independence based on ownership, prudence and daring, calculating and saving, responsibility for planning one’s own life, proper coherence with the community, family feeling, a sense of tradition and the succession of generations combined with an open-minded view of the present and the future, proper tension between individual and community, firm moral discipline, respect for the value of money, the courage to grapple on one’s own with life and its uncertainties, a sense of the natural order of things, and a firm scale of values.''
'' Röpke supported free markets rather than socialism not merely because markets were more efficient from the standpoint of utility. Markets also allowed people to exercise their freedom in ways that brought a certain order to human affairs, while simultaneously solving the economic problem of scarcity. In part, Röpke’s conclusions were derived from empirical observation concerning the operations of markets and planned economies and their respective consequences for political order. Yet they also owed something to his long observation of human nature and certain conclusions that he reached about the character of human beings. Humans, he claimed, were driven to a large extent by the type of enlightened self-interest Alexis de Tocqueville portrayed in Democracy in America. But Röpke’s understanding of man—his philosophical anthropology—is also rooted in what might be called the tradition of Christian realism often associated with St. Augustine.''
This is a deep, broad, through synthesis of human life.
Röpke is not obscure, but is writing for scholars or the erudite reader. Mentions Pascal six times, Marx ten, Acton five, Smith five, Mises thirteen, Hayek thirteen, Burke eleven. Ortega y Gassett is referenced five times; however, his ''Revolt of the Masses'' plays a key role in Röpke's thought. This is almost an extension of that earlier writing.
About one hundred thirty notes. Same extensive and worth examining for themselves! The links worked great on my iPad.
Detailed index with working links.