Liberty Quote

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.

Gerard Radnitzky

The text continues

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.

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13 Responses to Liberty Quote

  1. Warty

    Interesting, but not very funny.
    We now have a relatively new game that offers doctored statistics posing as credible science, in terms of incidents of campus rape, or the existence and the effect of global warming (just two examples).
    Notions of a free society become scrambled when noodle heads like me, who lack even a scintilla of scientific understanding, try and sift through frequently questionable arguments as to why I am not to be trusted any near women, or the need to hug a wind turbine rather than a tree (women are out of course).
    Methinks aspects of the ‘European Miracle’ and its apparently liberating period of The Enlightenment are in truth a form of sociological time bomb. Push the concept of individual liberty to its ultimate (which the Enlightenment inevitably does) and it turns in on itself and becomes its opposite: anarchy, albeit the new age anarchists then take it upon themselves to stand over us, as Bill Leak’s LBGTI stormtroopers do. Then, hey presto and you have good old tyranny.

  2. Haidee

    ‘. . . It remains to be seen if the Trump ascendancy can make a difference’
    Fingers crossed that it does

    Clive James saves time by not reading any opinion which begins with “Methinks”.
    That was two years ago.
    Just saying ..
    (Clive doesn’t like that either)

  3. max

    After the fall of Rome, no universal empire was able to arise on the Continent.

    Europe developed into a mosaic of kingdoms, principalities, city-states, ecclesiastical domains, and other political entities.
    Within this system, it was highly imprudent for any prince to attempt to infringe property rights in the manner customary elsewhere in the world. In constant rivalry with one another, princes found that outright expropriations, confiscatory taxation, and the blocking of trade did not go unpunished. The punishment was to be compelled to witness the relative economic progress of one’s rivals, often through the movement of capital, and capitalists, to neighboring realms. The possibility of “exit,” facilitated by geographical compactness and, especially, by cultural affinity, acted to transform the state into a “constrained predator”
    Decentralization of power also came to mark the domestic arrangements of the various European polities.

  4. max

    When Germany Was Great!
    The Holy Roman Empire in 1789 AD. At the time, Germany was a patchwork of countless independent principalities, duchies, city states, bishoprics and other statelets. This was a glorious time, as citizens could very easily vote with their feet if they were unhappy with their rulers. Keep in mind, there were no such things as “passports” or “border controls” at the time. No-one even thought about such things – it would have been considered an inane notion. And although almost every statelet minted its own coins (displaying its own coat of arms and a portrait of its ruler), money was actually standardized across the entire region since the Middle Ages. Most of Germany used silver coins, which were minted according to standardized weights and sizes (gold coins were also used, but silver was more prevalent in day-to-day commerce). Thus all coins were accepted across the region, regardless of which principality or duchy had issued them. There were no tariffs either and no restrictions on cross-border investment. There was even a mechanism for reining in fiscally highly incompetent or plain crazy rulers through a supra-national arbitration body that only sprang into action upon special request (when such requests were deemed reasonable). Taxes as a rule didn’t exceed a level of 10%, as any attempt to impose higher taxes would lead to an exodus of people from the territory concerned. Not everything was perfect of course, but let us just note that despite a lack of democracy, there was no lack of freedom.

  5. Warty

    Haidee, I wonder why he has this particular blockage? Does he prefer those who start with ‘In my opinion’, or ‘l wonder . . . ‘. Actually it is probably because he thinks it subverts the Old English (Anglo Saxon) ‘me thyncth’.

  6. HGS

    The European Miracle is probably a longish episode of success and we are looking back on the end of it all. Too many of the freedoms destroyed a hundred years ago and our times seem like a fast ride with no brake at hand.

    Methinks that eduction and democracy followed economic success,and the expansion of formal education is probably one of the main reason for the smothering of social and economic freedoms.

    Trump is just another ant hill, even if his people are capable of reshaping attitudes.

  7. Tel

    We, too, maintain the necessity of safeguarding the conditions that make for the free development of the individual; we, too, believe that the oppression of individual personality can find no place in the modern state.

    We do not, however, accept a bill of rights which tends to make the individual superior to the state and to empower him to act in opposition to society. Our concept of liberty is that the individual must be allowed to develop his personality in behalf of the state, for these ephemeral and infinitesimal elements of the complex and permanent life of society determine by their normal growth the development of the state. But this individual growth must be normal. A huge and disproportionate development of the individual of classes, would prove as fatal to society as abnormal growths are to living organisms. Freedom therefore is due to the citizen and to classes on condition that they exercise it in the interest of society as a whole and within the limits set by social exigencies, liberty being, like any other individual right, a concession of the state. What I say concerning civil liberties applies to economic freedom as well.

  8. Roger

    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.

    Mmm…just remember, culture is downstream from religion.

    The evolution of Western commerce owes more to Christianity than you seem willing to acknowledge.

  9. Haidee

    me thynct you could be right, Warty
    Clive is very particular

  10. classical_hero

    Roger, it’s no surprise that the Reformation and Renaissance both happened at the same time. It’s also not surprising that as Europe moves away from the Christian God, that freedoms are being constrained.

  11. Mark A

    #2465543, posted on August 11, 2017 at 12:57 pm
    but let us just note that despite a lack of democracy, there was no lack of freedom.

    Whatever gave you the idea that: democracy = freedom ?

  12. Mark A

    #2466470, posted on August 12, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    me thynct you could be right, Warty
    Clive is very particular

    Be Baldricked!

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