An interesting historical footnote by Samuel Cregg in The American Spectator the other day in which he paid a fulsome tribute to Wilhelm Röpke (1899-1966) - and, no, me neither! He was a German economist and one of the leaders of the German 'miracle' following the end of WWII when the nation moved from apocalypse to opulence. This was achieved by policies based on the so-called 'Austrian school' of economics which, despite their obvious and enormous success have been resolutely ignored by European governments ever since - although 'that woman' did have a go and we did enjoy a brief period of real prosperity before the rats and the weasels returned.
But Mr. Cregg is provoked into paying his tribute to Herr Röpke by the imminent crashing and smashing of Europe which is precisely what he forecast and warned about decades ago:
[N]ot many know that Röpke was also one of the very few free market economists who loudly and publicly criticized what would eventually become today's European Union even before the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957. [My emphasis] Röpke was in short a "euroskeptic" long before the term was coined.
And remember, this was also long before the euro common currency was introduced. However, Röpke not only understood economic theory and practice but also the ways of politicians:
It's striking just how much Röpke got right about the consequences of the present European integration model. In 1958 [my emphasis], for instance, he predicted it would eventually pit a minority of relatively market-orientated European economies (particularly Germany) against a majority of strongly étatiste-inclined countries. Those nations that ran disciplined fiscal and monetary policies, Röpke argued, would eventually be pushed to "sacrifice" their rectitude "on the altar of Europe" in order to assist less-disciplined nations.
He also possessed a keen eye on the certain multiplication of European civil service bureaucracies until they became powerful enough to be pillars of the new state on their own account:
Röpke also forecast that the precursor to today's European Union, the European Economic Community (EEC), would exacerbate the bureaucraticization that plagued much European economic life. Foreshadowing what would later be called public choice theory, Röpke noted that every single postwar creation of supra-European institutions had produced armies of civil servants with a strong self-interest in expanding their numbers and influence. Less than 6 years after the EEC's creation, Röpke observed that its executive bodies had become "an enormous administrative machine" churning out thousands of growth-stifling regulations. Even worse, he added, the EEC's various departments had already been captured by "socialists and ingrained interventionists."
Sound chap, that Röpke, so if that plinth is still empty in Trafalgar Square we could do a lot worse than put his statue on it. Or perhaps better still, put it in Parliament Square with him pointing a warning finger at the reptiles inside.