We put up The German Question by Wilhelm Ropke last month but I’m only now focusing on its importance in the history of liberty, thanks to the prompting of Samuel Gregg at the Acton Institute. He pointed out that it was this book that inspired the postwar economic reform in Germany — which Ropke himself did not believe had gone nearly far enough.
But this is far from being merely a plea to get rid of price controls. It is a call for wholesale moral, political, and economic reform, for in his view it was not enough to get rid of corrupt leadership but to completely purge the principle that the central state is in charge of the whole of society. A thorough de-Hitlerization would require dismantling the central state and restore the old city states, completely ending the monopoly on industry and education and medical care, and a restoration of sound money, not to mention free trade with the world.
It came out in 1945 in Switzerland, one year after Mises’s Omnipotent Government and Hayek’s Road to Serfdom. It is more sweeping than the former (in a policy sense) and more radical than the latter (in a policy sense). In fact, I’m not entirely sure why it is that I had never heard of this book, except to say that it seems like most of Ropke’s writings from this period haven’t received the attention they deserve.
We’ll have this available in paperback soon, but for now, have a look.
All these peculiarities of the structure of modern tyranny, whose ugliest and extremest form was Nazism, are marked by the entire dissolution of the values and standards without which our society, or any other, cannot exist in the long run: a pernicious anaemia of morality, a cynical unconcern in the choice of means, which in the absence of firm principles become ends in themselves; a nihilistic lack of principle, and, in a word, what may be described literally as Satanism and Nihilism. Everything rots away, and finally there remains only one fixed aim of the tyranny, to which all moral principles, all promises, treaties, guarantees, and ideologies are ruthlessly sacrificed –the naked lust for domination, for the preservation of the continually threatened power, a power held on to for no other purpose than the continued enjoyment of all its fruits. The immorality of such a regime needs no arguing.