Wilhelm Roepke and the ‘Third Road’

"Whether in his economic writings or in his wide-ranging excursions into political and social theory, the pendulum of Roepke’s thought moves irresistibly toward the vital center and away from extremes. At the same time, he did not achieve his legendary status as a fighter for freedom by diluting his defense of principle or by yielding to compromise for the sake of harmony. The harmony he sought was not in the area of polemics. It was an organic phenomenon, the natural harmony in the affairs of both men and nations that results from a right order of things, not only in the economic sphere but in all the multitudinous and intersecting frameworks—historical, cultural, political, environmental, moral, even religious—that make up the totality of human life. Roepke, one of the clearest thinkers of the age, had an unusually clear and detailed conception of what would be found in the “center” he espoused. And he excoriated such contentless phrases as “the mixed economy” (the favorite incantation of exegetes of the Keynesian gospel) as drivel, implying that any old combination of government with the market economy is feasible or desirable. In fact, as he tirelessly argued, there are very clear limits to the quantitative and qualitative roles that government can play in the market economy and which, when transgressed, lead to the death of the market and the nightmareof collectivism."