It is an open question whether the relatively free society, which can support autonomous sciences and is supported by it, which grew out of the ‘European Miracle’ and which constitutes a unique and fragile exception in human history, will be an episode or an enduring achievement. Much will depend on whether it will be possible to educate the educable sections of the population and above all the future decision makers so that they understand the functioning of modern society and economy. This is a cognitive and also an educational task.
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The comparative institutions approach outlines the consequences of various institutional arrangements: the ways institutions work out for people living under them, what opportunities various systems offer, what sort of life is possible under them. It will then be up to the individuals to choose between giving individual freedom priority in the social and public sphere or to accept some form of slavery under a totalitarian system, including unlimited democracy in the sense of the dictatorship of the majority as a special case of totalitarianism.
The source is a long academic paper by the late Gerard Radnitzky. Actually the sections 5. THE RISE OF SCIENTIFIC THINKING AS ONE OF THE EARMARKS OF THE ‘EUROPEAN MIRACLE’, 6. THE CONSEQUENCES OF INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR SCIENTIFIC PROGRESS AND FOR INNOVATIONS and 7. THE FUTURE IS OPEN are not too long and academic, they contain the guts of the paper for general consumption.
The bottom line is that the secret of the ‘European Miracle’ has been the evolution of limited government. There is no trade-off between freedom on the one hand and economic success and scientific progress on the other hand. The two are inseparable because economic growth has come from economic freedom and competition, and scientific progress has come from a free market of ideas.
The ‘Rise of the West’ has been made possible by the evolution of freedom in the economic sphere from political and religious influences, and by other developments leading to the security of property rights. It is an open question whether the relatively free society which grew out of the ‘European Miracle’, will be a unique, fragile and transient exception in human history or an enduring achievement.
The European Community is in the process of dismantling the ‘European Miracle’ and a similar process has been proceeding for some time with bipartisan support in the US. It remains to be seen if the Trump ascendency can make a difference.
Gerard Radnitzky (1921-2006) was a German fighter pilot in WWII. With a friend he did a runner to Sweden. His friend did not make it but Gerard spent the rest of the war in neutral territory and married a Swedish lady. He became an academic in philosophy and political economy, with his ideas drawn from Popper’s philosophy of science and Austrian/libertarian economics. He was based in Germany and was an associate of Hayek and also of Wolfgang Kasper. Later in life he became depressed and his wife recruited Wolfgang to help. He persuaded Radnitzky write a memoire which is unfortunately in German.