Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A condition of freedom

Apart from the fact that John Zmirak wrote a book about Wilhelm Röpke, it is not immediately obvious to me why this portion of his review of a new book is relevant to that book. But it stands on its own as an important reminder for conservatives and especially for a certain type of libertarian:
Wilhelm Röpke
The architect of the post-war German economic “miracle,” Wilhelm Röpke, used to warn his old friends Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek that a free economy and society could only survive the convulsive changes wrought by the market’s creative destruction if the non-state sector — families, churches, and the rest of what Tocqueville called “civil society” — was strong and solid. The “spontaneous order” that makes freedom possible can break down, and as social chaos worsens, the populace will look to big government for shelter and protection. Hence fragmented families and their dysfunctions fuel the demand for social programs, and the fading of faith drives people to seek the civil religion of socialism, as Catholic historian Michael Burleigh documents in Earthly Powers. .... [more]
Which reminded me of what Burke had to say about the need for self-control:
Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.
Edmund Burke, Letter to a Member of the National Assembly (1791).