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


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