Civitas Humana: A Humane Order Of Society, by Wilhelm Ropke
When it comes to speaking about a humane societal order, Wilhelm Ropke is someone who not only talks the talk about speaking out in defense of the free society, he is also someone who put his talk into action. Most famously, hours before the fire that brought Hitler to dominance in Germany, Ropke spoke in Frankfurt at the memorial of a fellow economist and friend and spoke out against the totalitarian rule of Hitler, leading him to become among the earliest refugees from Nazi Germany, where he settled after 1937 in the Swiss city of Geneva. There are plenty of people who may talk about how their political and economic ideals benefit humanity as a whole, but few people have put those thoughts into action as powerfully and as successfully as the author did, giving him a credibility that few can match. This book provides a general view of the elements of a just and humane social order that comes from various Western traditions and that springs as an organic outgrowth of religious and philosophical culture that is all too easy to ditch and minimize by those who are enemies of history and hostile to the openness and truth that is a core of what makes the West successful even now.
This book is a bit under 250 pages long and it is divided into four parts and 11 chapters. The author begins with a preface and then an introduction that discusses the old and new forms of society and economics and a look at capitalism and collectivism and the lack of alternatives to them. After that the author discusses the moral foundations of a humane social order (I) by looking at the failure of intellectuals to deal with reason, humility, while also pointing out the problems of scientism (1). This leads to a discussion of the place of science as well as value judgments in the humane society (2). Afterward the author talks about government (II) by discussing such matters as the difference between healthy and sick governments (3), counterweights to the state (4) in general, and then in specific like the press, judges, science, and how they have failed (5). The author discusses society (III) by looking at the congestion and proletarianization of society that has occurred in recent decades (6) as well as the need for decongestion and the restoration of property and action (7). The last part of the book then addresses questions of economics (IV), with chapters on the importance of decentralizing industry (8), encouraging the well-being of small farmers (9), alleviating the fluctuations of business cycles (10), and placing an economic system within a just world order (11), after which there is an index.
One of the most powerful aspects of this work is the way that the author manages to discuss the treason of the clerks and the way that academics, journalists, and judges, all of whom are essential in defending and preserving standards of truth in society, have gone out of their way to disparage the basis of truth upon which their own legitimacy, to say nothing of a humane order of society in general, depends. It is one of the more tragic and frustrating aspects of both the 1930’s as well as the present age how it is that those who should have defended truth have given it up for ideological views of justice that pit supposedly enlightened tyrants against religious and traditional forces from which wealth and social well-being spring, with tragic consequences. If our age was amenable to reason it would be worth recommending this book, but it seems that those who need to hear the message of the work as a whole about the danger of the concentration of political power and the importance of a bedrock view of absolute truth as well as a celebration of the wisdom that has endured from the past are not amenable to being called to repent for their violence and for their treason.