On the Economic Ethics of Walter Eucken
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (ed.) 2010: 60 Years of Social Market Economy. Formation, Development and Perspectives of a Peacemaking Formula; Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Sankt Augustin; pp. 20-41
23 Pages Posted: 15 Nov 2013 Last revised: 21 Nov 2013
Date Written: 2010
2008/9 sees the 60th anniversary of the German economic and currency reform of June 20, 1948, and the adoption of the Grundgesetz on May 23, 1949, which committed the country to the ideals of a socially committed market economy. Both of these events are important points along the path taken by the Federal Republic of Germany to reach the system of a social market economy. Since the term, Social Market Economy is often used in several different contexts and sometimes to mean contradictory things, we must ask: what exactly does the term social market economy entail? What economic-ethical ideas and theories are behind it? This paper will trace the origins of the social market economy (chapter 2) and explain the central characteristics of the Freiburg School of Economics (chapter 3), one of the main pillars of the social market economy. Central to this paper is the oeuvre of Walter Eucken, one of the leading representatives of the ordoliberal Freiburg School. The aim is to identify socio-political factors of influence and inspiration on his theory of economic policy (chapter 4) and evaluate similarities to the works of Kant, Smith and other economic philosophers. Chapter 5 will seek to elucidate Eucken’s “Program of Liberty”. We shall also allow ourselves a slight diversion to elaborate on the parallels between this work and Kant’s understanding of freedom and autonomy. Chapter 6 deals with Eucken’s dual requirements of an economic and social order (i.e. functioning and humane socio-economic order). In chapter 7, we seek to answer – with considerable reference to Adam Smith – to what extent it can be assumed that self-interest and the common good are mutually compatible. This paper concludes with a few remarks about the topicality of ordoliberalism in relation to modern, German-speaking economic ethics (chapter 8).
Keywords: Walter Eucken, German Neoliberalism, Ordoliberalism, Social Market Economy
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