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One year before the Nazi takeover of Austria, and after Mises had already
accepted a research position in Geneva, a remarkable book began to circulate
in what remained of Vienna's intellectual circles. It was Die Lehre von der
Wirtschaft, The Economics of the Free Society by Wilhelm Röpke.
If the Austrian economists had a textbook on economic theory and policy in
these years, Röpke had written it. It was a summary of the present state of
opinion on monetary theory, price theory, the business cycle, and method.
Röpke emerges here as thoroughgoing Misesian, a stalwart advocate of
capitalism and free trade, and a fierce critic of protectionism and every
manner of government interference with the economy.
The book made a huge impression in Austria, and one that the Gestapo did not
like. In 1939, the book was declared contraband, the offices of the
publisher broken into, and all copies destroyed. After the war, the book was
a huge success in Germany, and went through nine editions, serving, in many
ways, as the guidebook to the German economic miracle. Far from watering
down the book with successive editions, Röpke improved it by refuting
fallacies that cropped up in economics: positivism, Keynesian planning,
unionism, and much more. It was also translated into Italian, Finnish, and
The English edition finally appeared in 1962, but it has been out of print
for many years. In the meantime, it has become something of an urban myth
that Wilhelm Röpke was an advocate of a "third way" between capitalism and
socialism, and that he favored a wide range of interventionist measures.
This view is impossible to sustain in light of this sweeping defense of
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Austrian Economics, Freedom and Peace