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Wilhelm Roepke
1899 - 1966

German economist and political philosopher, author of The Social Crisis of Our Time, The Moral Foundations of Civil Society, A Humane Economy (1957), and other works. Roepke fought against the rise of National Socialism in Germany after World War I, publishing damning criticism of its dishonesty and its political consolidation, and eventually had to flee from Germany. A free-market economist of the Austrian school, Roepke wrote extensively about the ethical foundations of a market-based social order. His contributions to the reconstruction of Germany after World War II helped it evolve into one of the world's most successful nations, and his ideas - with those of von Mises, Hayek, and others - are central to modern conservative philosophy.

Books by Wilhelm Roepke
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Economics of the Free Society
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The Social Crisis of Our Time
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Two Essays by Wilhelm Roepke
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Click here for an essay by Wilhelm Roepke
[The government] covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

1957 - from A Humane Economy
... the welfate state, contrary to its proclaimed aim, tends to petrify the economic and social stratification and may impede rather than facilitate movement between classes.

1957 - from A Humane Economy
Very many people imagine that taxation of the higher income brackets merely implies restriction of luxury spending and that the purchasing power skimmed off from above is channeled into "social" purposes down below. This is an elementary error. It is quite obvious that larger incomes (and larger wealth) have so far mainly been spent for purposes which are in the interests of all. They serve functions which society cannot do without in any circumstances. Capital formation, investment, cultural expenditure, charity, and patronage of the arts may be mentioned among many others.

1957 - from A Humane Economy
The burden of the system of mass social services, which the state enforces, can no longer be borne by the higher incomes alone but must be placed on the shoulders of those same masses whose interests the system is to serve.

1957 - from A Humane Economy
Compulsory health insurance itself is seriously ill nearly everywhere ... It is hard to imagine that Great Britain would have set up the National Health Service in its present far-reaching form if people had realized in advance how it would work out ...

1957 - from A Humane Economy
Taking has become at least as important as giving. In the absence of a sufficient number of genuinely needy people, they have to be invented, so that the leveling down of wealth to a normal average, which satisfies social grievances, can be justified by moralistic phrasemaking.

1957 - from A Humane Economy
Neither a fully planned economy and general socialization nor the totalitarian state which necessarily goes with both are purposes for which the broad masses of the electorate can be successfully roused. What threatens the structure of our economy and society from within is something else: chronic diseases, spreading secretly and thereby all the more malignant. Their causes are hard to discover and their true nature is concealed from the superficial or thoughtless observer; they tempt individuals and groups with immediate advantages, while their fatal consequences take a long time to manifest themselves and are widely dispersed. This is precisely why these diseases are so greatly to be feared.

1957 - from A Humane Economy