Friday, February 12, 2016

Wilhelm Röpke (1899 - 1966)


"I champion an economic order ruled by free prices and markets...the only economic order compatible with human freedom."
Wilhelm Röpke died on this date fifty years ago. He was an excellent economist thoroughly grounded in a realistic view of human action and who, therefore, continually fought against the dehumanizing effects of Keynesian and mathematical economics. He has also served as one of my intellectual inspirations in his effort to incorporate economics into the broader fabric of general social thought. That he did not always do so successfully is manifest by his failure to square his affection for a "third way" with his conviction that a free market is the best exchange institution for attaining a good society. Nevertheless his work on critique of fascism, socialism, Keynesianism, and price controls, and his free market apologetic is worthy of both honor and study.

As I noted in these excerpts from my "Wilhelm Röpke: A Humane Economist" published in The Great Austrian Economists:

Wilhelm Röpke devoted his scholarly career to combating collectivism in economic, social, and political theory. As a student and proponent of the Austrian School, he contributed to its theoretical structure and political vision, warning of the dangers of political consolidation and underscoring the connection between culture and economic systems. More than any other Austrian of his time, he explored the ethical foundations of a market-based social order. 

He defended the free market from socialist cultural critics by pointing out that social crises and cultural decline are not the product of the free society; one needs to look to state control, political centralization, welfare, and inflation as a primary source of social decay. Röpke influenced the direction of post-war German economic reform, became a leading intellectual force in shaping the post-war American conservative movement, particularly its "fusionist" branch, and has been compared with Mises as an archetype of the individualist thinker. . . .
. . .From his earliest years, Wilhelm Röpke fought collectivist and statist power in every way an intellectual could. His tools included not only economic theory but also a vision of moral goodness rooted in Christian faith. As Hayek said of Röpke: "let me at least emphasize a special gift for which we, his colleagues, admire him particularly--perhaps because it is so rare among scholars: his courage, his moral courage." If are we concerned about fostering societies where people can live more humane lives, Röpke's advances in both Austrian economics and his vision of the good society deserve close attention.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Herbener to Give the Ludwig von Mises Lecture

It is my very great pleasure to share that my friend and department chair, Jeff Herbener will be giving the prestigious Ludwig von Mises Memorial Lecture at this year's Austrian Economics Research Conference at the Ludwig von Mises Institute at Auburn, Alabama. The conference will be held  March 31 through April 2. I encourage all who are interested in current scholarship in the Misesian tradition to register and attend.

I am convinced that Jeff is the most underrated Austrian economist working today. As Tom Woods is fond of noting, Jeff Herbener is the economist he has never been able to stump no matter what the question. He has a vast archive of written articles and recorded lectures available at Mises.org. He also has a variety of work for the public in the archive of The Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College. You can access an archive of much of his scholarly output by clicking here. He has edited two books, The Meaning of Ludwig von Mises and The Pure Time Preference of Interest and has contributed to Dissent on KeynesThe Great Austrian Economists and The Fed at One Hundred. He has also testified before a Congressional Sub-committee on the production of money and why we should eliminate the Federal Reserve. You can watch his testimony here:


Monday, December 21, 2015

The Downside of Price Controls

A week ago Saturday I was again blessed to be a guest on the program A Plain Answer. The show is broadcast on the Redeemer Broadcasting radio network. Dan Elmendorf and I talk about the economics and ethics of price controls as I relate a personal experience of having my dad laid off in 1973 due to the Nixon Administration's price freeze on a variety of retail goods including meat. You can listen to the discussion by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Austrian Student Scholars Conference

From my department chair, Jeffrey Herbener:

Grove City College will host the twelfth annual Austrian Student Scholars Conference, February 26-27, 2016. Open to undergraduates and graduate students in any academic discipline, the ASSC will bring together students from colleges and universities across the country and around the world to present their own research papers written in the tradition of the great Austrian School intellectuals such as Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, Murray Rothbard, and Hans Sennholz. Accepted papers will be presented in a regular conference format to an audience of students and faculty.

Keynote lectures will be delivered by Drs. Mark Brandly and Matthew McCaffrey.

Cash prizes of $1,500, $1,000, and $500 will be awarded for the top three papers, respectively, as judged by a select panel of Grove City College faculty. Hotel accommodation will be provided to students who travel to the conference and limited stipends are available to cover travel expenses. Students should submit their proposals to present a paper to the director of the conference (jmherbener@gcc.edu) by January 15. To be eligible for the cash prizes, finished papers should be submitted to the director by February 1.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Ritenour on Money

This past July I was blessed to lecture at Rothbard University sponsored by the Ludwig von Mises Institute Canada. One of the lectures I presented was an introduction to the nature of money. Mises Institute Canada has posted it on its YouTube channel. If you can stomach it, you can watch it below:


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Is Health Care a Right?

Caroline Baum says no as she gets to the heart of the political-economic problem with socialized health care. Countering Bernie Sanders recent statement, "When you look around the world, you see every other major country providing health care to all people as a right, except the United States," Baum explains,
"The problem with his statement is that rights aren't the government's to give. John Locke, the 17th century English philosopher, wrote about inalienable rights: God-given rights that can't be taken away."
A significant problem with declaring an economic good a right is that people immediately think it is the government's responsibility to either provide it for the masses or at least insure that it is provided. Because the good being declared a right is a scarce goods, other people will be forced to incur the costs of providing the good. Some will benefit while others will be harmed involuntarily.

The most obvious way the government could provide health care is for a fully socialized, single-payer government provided health care system--the kind that Bernie Sanders desires. Such a system would be a disaster. With the broken system we have now, the number one purchaser of medical services already is the government. The primary reason health care services are so expensive is that there is very little profit and loss calculation undertaken by anyone because the third-party-payer system drives a wedge between the demander of medical services (the patient) and the supplier of the services (the doctor and/or hospital). Sanders' proposal (and all single payers systems like it) drives the wedge even deeper and farther. 

Additionally, any claims that, under a plan such as Sanders desires, we'll all be more healthy would be laughable if the issue were not so serious. What Sanders' plan will do is increase the demand for medical services, but it will not increase supply, so we should expect the same sort of shortages they experience in Great Britain's National Health Service. On the issue of government intervention in the health care industry, I highly recommend Colin Gunn's film Wait Till Its Free.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Moral Basis of Economics vs. Socialism

That is the topic I discussed with Dan Elmendorf during my most recent appearance on A Plain Answer, a weekly program broadcast on the Redeemer Broadcasting Network.

We talked about the Christian ethic of private property and what that ethic implies for economic policy. We also talked about the economic benefits of a free market and why socialism always fails. You can access a podcast of the program by clicking here.