20 January 2011

He Said It: Wilhelm Röpke

"[A]dvocates [of the market economy], in so far as they are at all intellectually fastidious, have always recognized that the sphere of the market, of competition, of the system where supply and demand move prices and thereby govern production, may be regarded and defended only as part of a wider general order encompassing ethics, law, the natural conditions of life and happiness, the state, politics, and power. Society as a whole cannot be ruled by the laws of supply and demand, and the state is more than a sort of business company, as has been the conviction of the best conservative opinion since the time of Burke. Individuals who compete on the market and there pursue their own advantage stand all the more in need of the social and moral bonds of community, without which competition degenerates most grievously. As we have said before, the market economy is not everything. It must find its place in a higher order of things which is not ruled by supply and demand, free prices, and competition. It must be firmly contained within an all-embracing order of society in which the imperfections and harshness of economic freedom are corrected by law and in which man is not denied conditions of life appropriate to his nature. Man can wholly fulfill his nature only by freely becoming part of a community and having a sense of solidarity with it. Otherwise he leads a miserable existence and he knows it."

--Wilhelm Röpke, "The Conditions and Limits of the Market," chap. 3 of his 1960 A Humane Economy: The Social Framework of the Free Market

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