December 6, 2023 Reading Time: 2 minutes

What can happen when societies decouple from the Western liberal tradition and adopt collectivist frameworks that abandon reason, the pursuit of truth, and the core principles of civilization?

On this episode of Liberty Curious, Kate Wand was joined by Samuel Gregg, Distinguished Fellow in Political Economy at AIER, to discuss the life and ideas of Wilhelm Röpke. Röpke was a 20th century economics professor who was exiled from Germany in the 1930s for defending liberty and opposing the National Socialists.

In the conversation you’re about to hear, Samuel Gregg tells Röpke’s incredible life story, and describes the humanist philosophy that Röpke lived by, which left him standing alone against the illiberal Nazi regime.

Gregg writes, “The National Socialists had no interest in reason or the individual, let alone freedom as Röpke understood it. They personified what Röpke called the “reigning illiberalism,” which was characterized by “hot air, slogans . . . glorification of direct action, violence in dealing with all those of different opinion, rabble-rousing in every sphere, empty rhetoric, and deceitful stage effects.”

Such illiberalism would, he said, “trample down the garden of European civilization.” That, eventually, was what National Socialism did, epitomized by the regime’s attempt to wipe the Jewish people off the face of the earth.

Use these time stamp to navigate the interview:
0:00
– Intro
2:18 – Who was Wilhelm Röpke?
8:20 – After the First World War
11:50 – Röpke’s Opposition to the Nazis
15:50 – Röpke’s humanistic convictions
19:20 – His defence of Liberalism
23:43 – Cogs in the Machine
28:28 – Dividing people by identity groups
35:00 – The pursuit of Truth
39:55 – How do you know the Nazis were the ‘bad guys’?
42:32 – The Nazis thought that they were right
47:52 – Why do mass mobs lose their ability to reason?
52:40 – Threats to liberty now?
58:40 – What can individuals do?
1:01:37 – Last thoughts

READ Samuel Gregg’s Articles at Law and Liberty:
Wilhelm Röpke’s Civilization of Liberty
When a Classical Liberal Confronted Nazi Terror

SUBSCRIBE to Sam Gregg’s articles from AIER.org

LISTEN to Liberty Curious and all of AIER’s podcasts

Samuel Gregg

Samuel Gregg

Samuel Gregg is the Friedrich Hayek Chair in Economics and Economic History at the American Institute for Economic Research. He has a D.Phil. in moral philosophy and political economy from Oxford University, and an M.A. in political philosophy from the University of Melbourne.

He has written and spoken extensively on questions of political economy, economic history, monetary theory and policy, and natural law theory. He is the author of sixteen books, including On Ordered Liberty (2003), The Commercial Society (2007), Wilhelm Röpke’s Political Economy (2010); Becoming Europe (2013); Reason, Faith, and the Struggle for Western Civilization (2019); The Essential Natural Law (2021); and The Next American Economy: Nation, State and Markets in an Uncertain World (2022). Two of his books have been short-listed for Conservative Book of the Year, and one of his books has been short-listed for the 2023 Hayek Prize. Many of his books and over 500 articles and opinion pieces have been translated into a variety of languages. He is also a Contributor to Law and Liberty, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, an Affiliate Scholar at the Acton Institute, and a Fellow of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University.

He has published in journals such as the Harvard Journal of Law and Public PolicyJournal of Markets & Morality; Economic Affairs; Law and Investment Management; Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines; Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy; Oxford Analytica; Communio; Journal of Scottish Philosophy; University Bookman; Foreign Affairs; and Policy. He is a regular writer of opinion-pieces which appear in publications such as the Wall Street Journal; Foreign Affairs; The Daily Telegraph; First Things; Investors Business Daily; The Spectator; Law and Liberty; Washington Times; Revue Conflits; American Banker; National Review; Public Discourse; American Spectator; El Mercurio; Australian Financial Review; Jerusalem Post; La Nacion; and Business Review Weekly. He has served as an editorial consultant for the Italian journal, La Societa, and American correspondent for the German newspaper Die Tagespost. He has also been cited in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Time Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, Reuters, and the Holy See’s L’Osservatore Romano.

In 2001, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and a Member of the Mont Pèlerin Society in 2004. In 2008, he was elected a Member of the Philadelphia Society, and a Member of the Royal Economic Society. In 2017, he was made a Fellow of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University. He served as President of the Philadelphia Society from 2019-2021. He was made a Distinguished Fellow of the Philadelphia Society in 2023.

He is the General Editor of Lexington Books’ Studies in Ethics and Economics Series. He also sits on the Academic Advisory Boards of the Institute of Economic Affairs, London; Campion College, Sydney; La Fundación Burke, Madrid; the Instituto Fe y Libertad, Guatemala; and the Friedman-Hayek Center at the Universidad de CEMA, Buenos Aires. He also serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Markets and Morality and Revista Valores en la sociedad industrial.

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Kate Wand

Kate Wand is a content creator. Her focus is social commentary and filmmaking. She is the host of AIER’s Liberty Curious podcast.

You can follow her on Twitter @katewand.

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