Mailvox: I couldn’t possibly say

JH makes a prediction:


I know you love predictions, so I will predict that your views will more and more trend with Wilhelm Roepke over the coming years. While you got me started down the Austrian path years ago with the Mises AGD book study, the moralist and idealist (and perhaps wishful thinker) in me settled on Roepke. I have read a couple of his books, but I like the essay linked here, and it shares many of your recent themes:

Freedom, in other words, means being less dependent on the highly unstable modern economy as much as it does being less dependent on government. This is the point missed by many conservatives: they fail to see that decentralizing the economy is as vital as decentralizing the govern­ment. Dependency is indivisi­ble: dependency on an unstable market naturally leads to dependency on government when market difficulties arise (e.g., from the downside of the business cycle). Government is sought as a substitute, not simply for the market but more specifically for stability.


Roepke acknowledges that because the pursuit of self-interest does not always lead to harmony government intervention in the econo­my is sometimes needed. Here Roepke makes the important contribution of distinguishing between “compatible” and “incompatible” interventions. The former intervenes in the market in such a way as not to freeze the price mechanism and thus allows the forces of the market to adjust to the intervention. A protective tariff would be one example of such an intervention.


Roepke is not opposed to all forms of technical innovation. What he bemoans, however, is the indis­criminate application of these same tech­niques where they are inappropriate (as in agriculture) or where the social costs outweigh the immediate econom­ic benefits.

and finally

But Roepke is not a “dogmatic democratist,” recog­nizing not only that democracies have their weaknesses but can sometimes be the most despotic form of govern­ment. More important than the particu­lar form of government and narrow consideration of political rules is the (meta-governmental) spirit which informs and controls it. That spirit must be liberal in the properly understood sense. There is a distinction between a liberal order and its opposite, “collectivism.” The latter is the tendency to destroy those healthy forms of society and government identified above. It must recognize the proper spheres and limits of government, of the economy, and other institutions. It is entirely possible, and there are historical examples of this, for a government to be “democratic” but not “liberal.” … The opposite of collectivism is not democracy …

Me: Is it “pie in the sky” thinking to envision a hierarchical society where people have a sense of common purpose, have a physical connection to the land and production of their food, work in small to medium sized businesses producing high-quality or innovative items that fuel not just the spirit of consumption and competition but the (entrepreneurial) spirit of creativity and pride also? Sure, especially in our “multicultural wonderland,” as you (validly but too often) like to point out. But still, I like Roepke’s nuance, passion, conviction, and clarity. And as the cliche goes, you can’t hit a goal/target that you can’t see, Roepke’s vision of a “third way” would serve as a good goal.

Back to my prediction – I have seen you back off or fight the hard line libertarian dogma when you see its faults because you are great at reason and logic, and not wedded to ideology but right/wrong. As fragile as Roepke’s vision is, it seems to agree with you, albeit it may be too “nice” and “pretty” for you. 😉

I don’t know, since I’ve never actually read Roepke, although I remember Congressman McCotter speaking well of his ideas when I interviewed him the first time. But one thing that some people have a tough time grasping is that the libertarian goal of maximizing human liberty not only doesn’t necessarily mean embracing the principles of the American Libertarian Party, but also does not mean maximizing the permissible range of human behavior.

This concept should not be difficult if you understand that maximum tax revenues do not usually coincide with maximal tax rates. In the same way, maximal human liberty is unlikely to coincide with a complete absence of law… even though we acknowledge that the law, as it exists in the USA and most other states, is a transparent fiction to which the elite no longer even pretend to subscribe.