Finally, we reach the third article, Free Economy and Social Order. I find this article difficult to understand at once for the writer’s use of terms is not the usual ones popularized in the mainstream academic institution. Anyway, I tried to grasp what Ropke is trying to say. To me, he speaks about the necessity of an intellectual atmosphere and social order friendly to economic activity for free market to thrive. Without this social order, any appearance of free market is actually an artificial device created by a socialist state. It is not real free market, but a highly centralized machinery created by the state.
Then the writer proceeds to explain what he meant by “free market,” by identifying its two pillars: freedom of prices and competition and genuine private property. He then describes that private property only exists if the “individual sphere” has dual protection against other individuals and the government. Unfortunately, both the existing intellectual atmosphere and the social order are contrary to free market economy due to widespread influence of Marxist ideas. It is at this point that I find the article not easy to understand.
Ropke’s use of popular Marxist terms like “bourgeois” and “proletarianization” are different from the common understanding. He claims that Marxists are somehow successful in their distortion of the real meaning of these terms. I understand Ropke’s use of “bourgeois” as synonymous to “civilized” while proletariat is equivalent to a “nomad.” The author claims that free market economy thrives in an intellectual atmosphere and social order qualified as civilized. For him, this is reality and the natural order of things. He describes the appropriate place of free market in a civilized intellectual atmosphere and social order as follows:
Its place is in a society where certain elementary things are respected and are coloring the whole life of the community: individual responsibility; respect of certain indisputable norms; the individual’s honest and serious struggle to get ahead and develop his faculties; independence anchored in property; responsible planning of one’s own life and that of one’s family; thriftiness; enterprise; assuming well calculated risks; the sense of workmanship; the right relation to nature and the community; the sense of continuity and tradition; the courage to brave the uncertainties of life on one’s own account; the sense of the natural order of things.
The foregoing description is the essence of civilization and details the basic requirements for economic progress. This intellectual atmosphere and social order are now under serious threat due to the proletarianization of the economy, which Ropke emphasizes the very reason why he is skeptical about Keynesian and post-Keynesian economics. Evidences of this proletarianization are the dominant attitude of both the government and the people towards money, the participation of trade union representatives in the administration of corporations, and the diminishing responsibility of the debtor in the name of social justice. The writer ends his article by sharing two stories taken from the financial history of France to illustrate a “civilized” attitude towards money even in time of extreme national emergency.
In this overview of libertarian principles, we learn in the first article that free market thinkers have solemn responsibilities to specialize, not to expect support from giant corporations, focus on basic principles, and must demand honest money from the government. In the second article, we also realize historical facts and current evidences that support argument about the present-day existence of fascist policy. And finally, in the third article we learn the need of an intellectual atmosphere and social order for free market economy to grow and prosper.