What If We Dumped Rand for Röpke?

May 4, 2013 — 1 Comment

Joel Miller has a good post at Patheos about the social and economic philosopher Wilhelm Röpke. He compares him another economist, Ayn Rand. Röpke, unlike Rand, grounded his critique of socialism and his defense of free markets in a thoroughly Christian understanding of man and his world.

My picture of man is fashioned by the spiritual heritage of classical and Christian tradition. I see in man the likeness of God; I am profoundly convinced that it is an appalling sin to reduce man to a means (even in the name of high-sounding phrases) and that each man’s soul is something unique, irreplaceable, priceless, in comparison with which all other things are as naught. I am attached to a humanism which is rooted in these convictions and which regards man as the child and image of God, but not as God himself, to be idolized as he is by the hubris of a false and atheist humanism. These, I believe, are the reasons why I so greatly distrust all forms of collectivism.

It is for the same reasons that I champion an economic order ruled by free prices and markets — and also because weighty arguments and compelling evidence show clearly that in our age of highly developed industrial economy, this is the only economic order compatible with human freedom, with a state and society which safeguard freedom, and with the rule of law. For these are the fundamental conditions without which a life possessing meaning and dignity is impossible for men of our religious and philosophical convictions and traditions.

Joel closes the post saying:

If Röpke is right, then the last thing that we need is more of Rand. We need “to take counsel with our own souls and . . . bethink ourselves of the firm, enduring, and proved truths of life.” We’ve tried economics without reference to God, and no one’s better for it.

Socialism is a dead end, one that represses human freedom. But I don’t need Rand to tell me that. Rand’s critique is unnecessary and ultimately unhelpful because it is undergirded by an atheistic, anti-Christian philosophy. Our choice isn’t between socialism and Rand. We would be far better served by giving more space to people like Wilhelm Röpke.