Abstract

This article depicts the parallel evolution of the political economies of the “Old Chicago” and Freiburg schools. Both communities within the “laissez-faire within rules” research program and the long-standing “thinking in orders” tradition emerged during the 1930s and culminated in the 1940s, crystallizing around the personalities of Henry C. Simons and Walter Eucken. We show how, in an age of disintegration of national and international orders of economy and society, the political economists at Chicago and Freiburg underwent a double transition: from students of equilibrium to students of order, and from students of various positive orders to defenders of a specific normative order. The vision of the normative order on both sides of the Atlantic was the competitive order and its rules-based framework. Along with shared angst amid disintegrating orders, personal transatlantic connections between the two communities are identified, starting in Berlin during the 1920s. This article highlights the role of Friedrich A. Lutz, who, from the mid-1930s to Eucken's death and beyond, served as a lifeline between the isolated Freiburg school and Anglo-Saxon economists. Lutz's activities are embedded in a narrative of transatlantic conversations around Friedrich A. Hayek and the early meetings of the Mont Pèlerin Society.

The deceased Professor Henry C. Simons may have played, and still plays, a role in the US as the one of Walter Eucken in our country. At Chicago, he increasingly evolved into the head of an entire “school.”

—Heinrich Rittershausen, ORDO Jahrbuch für die Ordnung von Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft (1951)

1. Ordoliberalism's Renaissance: Is German Exceptionalism Back?

The past decade has witnessed a curious development regarding the reception of ordoliberal politico-economic thought. While ordoliberalism and its intellectual foundations in the Freiburg school still constitute a challenging artifact for historians of economics, the most recent abundant literature published by some of the best international presses stems from disciplines as diverse as macroeconomics, finance, political theory, law, intellectual history, the sociology of science, and literary studies.1 However, since this renewed interest has been mostly triggered by Germany's peculiar positions on fiscal and monetary policy during the eurozone crisis, the perennial claim that ordoliberalism has been a “German oddity” (Beck and Kotz 2017) or even an “irritating German idea” (Hien and Joerges 2017) remains in the air. Our article challenges precisely this exceptionalism claim.

We build on previous work and provide fresh evidence of the parallel emergence and evolution of the research programs at Freiburg and Chicago crystallizing around Walter Eucken (1891–1950) and Henry C. Simons (1899–1946). Simons's “Old Chicago” school preceded the later political economies in the cohort of Milton Friedman (1912–2006) and George Stigler (1911–91).2 The strikingly similar political economies in Old Chicago and Freiburg during the 1930s and 1940s are reconstructed as parts of the contemporaneous “laissez-faire within rules” research program (Buchanan 1989: 11; 2010; 2020; Levy and Peart 2020: 165–70). This research program updated for the twentieth century the long-standing “thinking in orders” tradition that had informed and shaped numerous German and European discourses from cameralism to ordoliberalism (Tribe 1995). By harnessing archival evidence from eleven collections located in the United States, Germany, and Austria and listed in table 1, we shed light on hitherto unexplored transmission channels across the Atlantic, in addition to Friedrich A. Hayek (1899–1992), who is often discussed in the existing literature (Van Horn 2009, 2011b; Van Horn and Mirowski 2009; Köhler and Kolev 2013). Our spotlight is on the role of Friedrich A. Lutz (1901–75). Lutz was Eucken's most successful student who in the course of the 1930s moved from Freiburg to Princeton, with several research stays in the United Kingdom along the way. After marrying Vera C. Smith (1912–76), Hayek's doctoral student at the London School of Economics (LSE), Lutz became a crucial transatlantic interlocutor from Princeton, a role for which we present extensive archival evidence from the Walter Eucken Papers, which have become accessible only very recently.

While the existing literature commonly highlights the conversations at the Colloque Walter Lippmann in 1938 or the first meetings of the Mont Pèlerin Society in the late 1940s, the conversation we reconstruct had started already in Berlin during the early 1920s. Overall, our comparative analysis pursues a double aim. While we pinpoint concrete personal connections across the Atlantic that shaped the two research programs from the 1920s to the 1940s, we do not emphasize unidirectional influences. Instead, our central claim is that the shared “thinking in orders” political economy resulted from a shared angst about the existential threats to the embattled Western civilization and, above all, its disintegrating orders. The extreme urgency of the age, felt in similar ways at Chicago and Freiburg, required a radically new conceptualization of the rules of politico-economic frameworks on all levels, leading to the “laissez-faire within rules” research program. These new frameworks were devised to stabilize what could still be stabilized from the fragile interwar national and international orders and to provide more robust orders for the postwar age as captured in the shared vision of the competitive order.

2. The Competitive Order Puzzle: Striking Politico-Economic Similarities across the Atlantic

The history of economics is often a quest to resolve puzzles. When reading their posthumously published books on their positive programs of economic policy, the overlap between the two political economies of Simons and Eucken is stunning—and puzzling, given the isolation of German academia after the rise of National Socialism (Simons 1948; Eucken [1952] 2004). To articulate the puzzle at hand, let us start with a crucial proposition from “A Positive Program for Laissez Faire,” Simons's early politico-economic manifesto: “Laissez faire, to repeat, implies a division of tasks between competitive and political controls” (Simons [1934] 1948: 55).

Already this quotation conveys that there is a positive role that Simons assigns to government within its division of labor with the market. Such a government has to actively set up institutions instead of only disbanding undesirable institutions through negative policies. Simons summarizes his vision as follows: “The proper function of the state . . . is largely not that of providing services but that of providing the framework within which business, local-public and private, may effectively be conducted” (Simons [1945] 1948: 18).

Providing the framework is the essential function of government, and the qualitative dimension of this division of labor overrules the quantitative (“what kind of government intervention” instead of “how much”). Simons's political economy has been aptly dubbed the “market-plus-framework approach” (Samuels 2005: 198), in which the framework is constituted by “market-supporting” (as opposed to “market-suppressing”) regulation (Zingales and McCormack 2003: 13). For Simons, the quintessential problem is the existence of power, and the goal of this framework is to identify and destroy power concentrations that pose a constant threat to both the political and economic orders:

A cardinal tenet of the libertarians is that no one may be trusted with much power—no leader, no faction, no party, no “class,” no majority, no government, no church, no corporation, no trade association, no university, no large organization of any kind. They must forever repeat with Lord Acton: “Power always corrupts”—and not merely those who exercise it but those subject to it and the whole society. (Simons [1945] 1948: 23)

Along with disempowerment, the fight against inequality is the second goal of the framework. Inequality should be targeted above all by taxation, so that Simons's “pro-market” attitude entails the opposite of being “pro-business” or “pro-rich” (Zingales and McCormack 2003: 13). The underlying metaphor is the economy as a game within a framework that disempowers the players and combats inequality among them. To attain those two ends, rules are the key means in a democratic political order: “There is no means for protecting the common interest save in terms of rules of policy; and it is only in terms of general rules or principles that democracy, which is government by free, intelligent discussion, can function tolerably or endure” (Simons [1944] 1948: 123).

Simons is explicit about the critical issue of legitimation of orders and adheres to the idea of common constitutional interest by consensus. Finding such a consensus on rules is what he believes can save democracy from the polarizing quarrel on discretionary decisions. “Rules versus Authorities in Monetary Policy” (Simons [1936] 1948) is probably his most enduring legacy as a formative piece for the later “New Chicagoans,” best visible in Friedman's monetarism, despite the rejection of Simons's concrete institutional proposals by the New Chicagoans (Taylor 2017: 4–5; Johnson 2018: 221–23; Köhler and Vanberg 2015). Simons delineates the properties of his preferred type of rules: “more definite and adequate ‘rules of the game’” (Simons [1934] 1948: 57); “simple rule or principle” and “rules of the game as to money are definite, intelligible, and inflexible” (63); and “definite, mechanical set of rules of the economic game” (Simons [1936] 1948: 173). Thus he calls for rules capable of containing the arbitrariness of political and bureaucratic authority, rules that must be interpersonally general, that is, minimizing bureaucratic discretion, as well as intertemporally stable, that is, stabilizing the expectations of market participants.

Arriving from the principle of citizen consensus over rules, it is easily understandable that Simons contextualizes the order of the economy in the larger order of society. First, he underscores the interrelationships between the different societal orders, especially the legal, political, and economic orders—very much in line with the contextual understanding of the economic order in nineteenth-century German political economy, a pattern of thought that the Freiburgeans contemporaneously called interdependence of order (Goldschmidt, Grimmer-Solem, and Zweynert 2016). Second, Simons outlines that the different fields of economic policy like competition policy, monetary policy, and foreign trade policy are intricately interwoven—implying an interdependence of policies within the economic order. Every decision of the policymaker in one field should be analyzed regarding its impulses to other policy fields in the economic order, as well as to the other societal orders.

In summary, five core propositions add up to Simons's normative vision of the competitive order.3 First, through positive policies government implements a framework within which market participants interact. Second, this framework has to be designed in a manner that disempowers the game in economy and society. Third, the framework consists above all of consensual rules, interpersonally general and intertemporally stable. Fourth, the framework of the competitive order operates via designing rules of the game instead of intervening in the moves of the game. Fifth, all societal orders and economic policies are interdependent.

In substance and rhetoric, these five propositions correspond almost perfectly to the political economy that was emerging at Freiburg during the same period. Eucken's double criteria for the competitive order—it must be efficient and humane—correspond to Simons's concerns about power and inequality that threaten an efficient and humane economic order (Eucken [1952] 2004: 372–74). And the similarities continue, independent of the level of abstraction, and extend to Eucken's Freiburg school associates Franz Böhm (1895–1977) and Hans Großmann-Doerth (1894–1944) as well as to non-Freiburgean ordoliberals like Wilhelm Röpke (1899–1966), with his plea for “positive economic policy” (Röpke [1944] 1948: 24–34).4 There is one important exception: the prerequisite of citizen consensus over constitutional rules, which was later identified as a gap in the ordoliberal theory of order with respect to democratic legitimation (Vanberg 2001). The notion of interdependence is as fundamental for Eucken and Böhm as it is for Simons, across orders and within the policies in the economic order (Eucken [1952] 2004: 332–34). Eucken clearly prefers rules over case-by-case discretion (Eucken [1932] 2017: 55–61). The Freiburgean critique of laissez-faire emphasizes the inability of legal and economic scholarship during the late nineteenth century to recognize competition as “the greatest and most ingenious disempowering instrument in history” (Böhm 1961: 22) and enforce it in the economic order (Böhm, Eucken, and Großmann-Doerth [1936] 1989: 20–21). The topos of power, so prominent in Simons, is equally central at Freiburg, along with the shared goal of disempowering economy and society.5 Providing a rules-based framework is the trademark of Freiburgean “Ordnungspolitik,” with government focusing on the rules of the game instead of intervening in the moves of the individuals. The generality and stability of the rules are also endorsed by Eucken, with “constancy of economic policy” among his seven constitutive principles of the competitive order (Eucken [1952] 2004: 285–89).6 In one of the few direct references, Eucken calls Simons's Economic Policy for a Free Society one of the three most important works on the necessity for “positive principles which constitute the competitive order” (Eucken [1952] 2004: 255, 269).

In addition to this overlap in the theories of order, we find similar perspectives in the domains of competition policy, taxation policy, and monetary policy. In competition policy, both Simons and Eucken search for arrangements that can disempower the economic order comprehensively. They are concerned not only with the concentration of companies but also with cartelization and monopolization of organized labor. In taxation policy, both Simons and Eucken recognize progressive taxation as an important instrument for correcting excessive inequality that can emerge in the competitive order. In monetary policy, Eucken and the Freiburgeans directly endorse the Chicago Plan of 100 Percent Money, and Eucken ([1952] 2004: 260n1) identifies Simons as having had the “leading role” within “the group of Chicagoan economists.” This plan is assessed as the most promising institutional arrangement to diminish the instability stemming from the monetary order for the economic order in the postwar age (Eucken [1940] 1950: 165–69; 1949: 76–83, 98; [1952] 2004: 259–61; Köhler and Kolev 2011: 21–24; 2013: 213–21; Köhler 2019).

Students are among the most authentic witnesses of parallelisms in the thought and rhetoric of their teachers. Public choice pioneers Gordon Tullock (1922–2014) and Peter Bernholz (1929–) provide a case in point about the proximities in the late 1940s. Tullock studied law at Chicago from 1939 to 1943 and then again from 1946 to 1947, with his only course in economics being Simons's price theory course (Economics 201) in 1943. To commemorate Simons's formative influence on his cohort, Tullock produced an edition of the syllabus of the course, and in the foreword to the volume he wrote that “Chicago, in the 1930s, developed a particular brand of economics and a school of thought” (Tullock 1983: iv).7 Bernholz immediately reviewed Tullock's volume and acclaimed its publication, but he disagreed with Tullock's claim about the “particular brand”: having studied at Munich and Marburg from 1950 to 1955, Bernholz (1984: 387) reminisced—very much in the spirit of the observation of Heinrich Rittershausen (1951) in the epigraph of the current article—that “we were exposed to nearly the same material as contained in Simons' syllabus.” Along with Heinrich von Stackelberg's and Gustav Cassel's textbooks, Bernholz highlighted Eucken's Die Grundlagen der Nationalökonomie (The Foundations of Economics; Eucken [1940] 1950) and concluded, “In comparing Simons' ideas with those of the Ordo-Liberals in Germany one is again struck by their similarities. The latter, too, were proponents of free trade and the control of monopolies and cartels. Both were opponents of collectivism, believe that an economic order has to be organized and are skeptical concerning discretionary monetary and fiscal policies” (Bernholz 1984: 389).

With this, the shared fascination for the substance and rhetoric of the competitive order at Chicago and Freiburg is sufficiently laid out. In the following, our historical quest aspires to uncover at least some of the sources of these parallelisms.

3. The Formative Years: Old Chicago, Freiburg, and the Crisisof the Liberal Order

3.1. Seniors and Juniors, Emancipation and Cohesion

The figures at the heart of this exposition belonged to what we will call the “fin de siècle generation.” Simons, Hayek, and Röpke were all born in 1899, Eucken in 1891, his student Lutz in 1901, their international peers Lionel Robbins and Bertil Ohlin in 1898 and 1899, respectively. The collapse of order with the onset of the Great War in 1914 was a formative experience of their youth. The war shattered not only the political and economic orders in the combating nations, but additionally crushed many of the civilizational advancements of the long nineteenth century and its international political and economic orders from the first wave of globalization (Wegner 2020). When those who had to fight the war came back from the front, they acquired academic credentials, identified scholarly passions, and found their own research niches. During the 1920s, they were in several ways in the position of juniors to the generation of Ludwig von Mises (1881–1973) and Frank Knight (1885–1972). While Mises and Knight were towering teachers and mentors for the fin de siècle generation, they were also figures from whom the juniors increasingly sought emancipation.

Mises's books, especially Die Gemeinwirtschaft (Socialism; Mises 1922), were formative for the fin de siècle generation and taught them what they should not aim at, thus shaping the negative part of their politico-economic agenda. Regarding the positive agenda, Mises also played an important but rather different role. Unlike his critique of socialism, his Kritik des Interventionismus (A Critique of Interventionism; Mises 1929) was met much more skeptically. It was perceived by the juniors as a genuine challenge, as a theory they aimed to reach beyond. Instead of Mises's insistence on laissez-faire, the fin de siècle generation formulated their various neoliberalisms that are aptly described with the motto “laissez-faire within rules” (Buchanan 1989: 11; 2010; 2020; Levy and Peart 2020: 165–70). With these theories, the fin de siècle generation responded to the Misesian challenge and struggled to identify the appropriate role of government: What could good interventionism mean? What rules were systemically necessary for constituting and sustaining a good order of economy and society? Since we employ “neoliberalism” in the self-descriptive meaning employed by the fin de siècle generation during the 1930s and 1940s while searching for a new liberalism viable in the twentieth century, their emphasis on the “within rules” part of the motto of the research program became the neoliberal demarcation line to the paleoliberal Mises, with his emphasis on the “laissez-faire” part (Kolev 2018b).

In our assessment, the fin de siècle generation grew out of the shadow of the Mises-Knight generation by the early 1930s. Hayek first penned his explicit opposition to Mises's insistence on laissez-faire in 1933 (Hayek to Mises, March 10, 1933).8 In his first correspondence with Simons (Hayek to Simons, December 1, 1934) and Eucken (Hayek to Eucken, October 18, 1932), Hayek expressed his enthusiasm for their early “laissez-faire within rules” manifestos (Simons [1934] 1948; Eucken [1932] 2017).9 At this same moment, the terrain they entered as mature scholars was most difficult. Only fifteen years after the collapse of order that had marred their youth, the scars of the Great Depression pushed numerous countries toward a fundamental transformation not only of their economic order but of the overall order of society as well as the international order. Thus for the fin de siècle generation, economic theory as technical economics focusing on issues of (dis)equilibrium lost in topicality, in contrast to a political economy and social philosophy focusing on issues of (dis)order (Blümle and Goldschmidt 2006).

In addition, instead of “only” studying the various societal orders and their configurations, the fin de siècle generation increasingly turned to defending one specific configuration of societal orders and thus consciously entered the domain of normativity. In line with Walter Lippmann's Good Society (1937), which was formative for their discourses during the 1930s and 1940s, these decades exhibit several parallel searches in the hotspots of neoliberalism (Freiburg, Chicago, London, Vienna, and Geneva) for what constitutes a “good society” (Goodwin 2014: 245–60; Reinhoudt and Audier 2018). The neoliberals hoped that these endeavors would provide their generation with the tools to defend the embattled Western civilization and its orders (Dekker 2016; Kolev 2019).

This double transition—from students of equilibrium to students of order, and from students of positive orders to defenders of a specific normative order—is the discursive context for the following analysis of the emergence of the order-based political economies on both sides of the Atlantic. Amid their world of two collapses of order (post-1914 and post-1929), the double transition shifted the fin de siècle generation: first away from the narrow context of technical economics to the broader contexts of the economy and society, and second from academia to the agora. In the new and broader context of an order-based political economy expounded in the agora, their aims were openly political: to stabilize what could still be stabilized in the 1930s and to prevent the interwar fragility from repeating itself in the postwar age.

3.2. It All Started in Berlin: From German Staatswissenschaft to Law and Economics

Although some historians find that the concept of “schools” reflects an outdated historiography, we will use the term simply as shorthand for groups of scholars who follow similar epistemological paths, share a common ontology, and appreciate similar scholarly traditions (Blumenthal 2007: 27–33). The first accounts of the schools appeared from the inside (Director 1948; Böhm 1957) and from the outside (Miller 1962; Moeller 1950). In both cases, there was a cohesive subsection within the economics department: in the case of Chicago, a group centered around Knight as the senior and around Simons as the “‘crown prince’ of Chicago economics” (Tavlas 2015: 101) and “the head of a ‘school’” (Director 1948: v) with the “classical liberalism of the Knight-Simons agenda” (Emmett 2018: 1559); in the case of Freiburg, a group centered around Eucken, who became the core of a larger community beyond Freiburg soon dubbed “ordoliberalism” (Moeller 1950: 224). Simons and Eucken are commonly depicted as gifted teachers who were formative for numerous graduate students. In both cases, there were other members of the economics department who oscillated around the cohesive group but did not belong to it: in the case of Chicago, prominently Jacob Viner (Samuelson 1972; Van Horn 2011a); in the case of Freiburg, prominently Constantin von Dietze and Adolf Lampe (Blumenberg-Lampe 1973; Goldschmidt 2013).

In both cases, the school-generating group extended beyond the economics department. In 1939, Simons was the first economist to be employed by the Law School (Katz 1946: 2–4; Stein [1987] 2018: 12331–332), while the legal scholars Böhm and Großmann-Doerth were constitutive for the Freiburg school from its very initiation around 1933 within the broad Faculty of Law and State Sciences initiated by Max Weber during his 1894–96 tenure at Freiburg (Vanberg 2001: 37–39; Brintzinger 1996: 23–27). Due to this interdisciplinarity, Chicago and Freiburg have been portrayed as incubators of the postwar field of law and economics (Medema 2010; Streit 1992: 675–78; Möschel 2001: 4–10). And although the school formation took a while (Medema 2014; Harberger and Edwards 2021), Simons was the key figure for consolidating the school's “specific proposals for economic policy” (Irwin 2018: 745). For reasons that included the (self-)censorship in German academic journals during National Socialism, the Freiburgeans lacked the equivalent of the Journal of Political Economy as a periodic outlet, but they established two book series: Probleme der theoretischen Nationalökonomie (Problems of Theoretical Economics), with Jena-based publisher Gustav Fischer in 1932, and Ordnung der Wirtschaft (Order of the Economy), with Stuttgart-based publisher Wilhelm Kohlhammer in 1936. The ORDO Jahrbuch für die Ordnung von Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft (ORDO Yearbook of Economic and Social Order) was founded only after the war, in 1948.

We could identify a common starting point for the parallel trajectories at the core of our exposition: Berlin during the early 1920s, more specifically its Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, today's Humboldt-Universität, amid the rivalry for the legacy of Gustav von Schmoller, who had died in 1917. Several authors have recently revisited the continuities between the German historical school and the emergence of the ordoliberal research program (Schefold 2022; Fritz, Goldschmidt, and Störring 2021). In 1921, Eucken defended his habilitation in Berlin, became Privatdozent at the university, and started publishing in Schmollers Jahrbuch (Eucken 1921). It was in the winter semester 1921–22 that Eucken met the other key German protagonist of our exposition, Friedrich A. Lutz (Grudev 2021), who became his student at Berlin. While writing his habilitation under Hermann Schumacher (1868–1952), Eucken helped with the editorial work of Schmollers Jahrbuch since Schumacher had become, jointly with Arthur Spiethoff (1873–1957), its coeditor after Schmoller's death in 1917. The notion of economic and societal orders played an important role in Schumacher's work (Goldschmidt 2002: 172–78).

Another influential economist at Berlin was Heinrich Herkner (1863–1932). A rival of Schumacher, he had been the handpicked successor to Schmoller's chair since 1913, president of the Verein für Socialpolitik since 1917—and quite likely also the intellectual nexus to Simons. After learning German at Chicago in 1927 (Collier 2016), Knight's doctoral student and “friend” arrived in Berlin in 1928 (Kasper 2003: 31; Shaviro 2013: 5) and spent several months at the university (Stigler 1974: 1).10 Simons experienced Berlin two years after the publication of Keynes's famous “The End of Laissez-Faire,” which had been delivered as a widely discussed public lecture at Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in June 1926 (Keynes [1926] 1931). It would be a formative (counter)impulse for Simons's first major publication, “A Positive Program for Laissez Faire” (Simons [1934] 1948), in the title and beyond: in addition to Keynes's spotlight on laissez-faire, we surmise that also the term “positive program” can be tracked to Simons's stay at Berlin.

In 1925, a major two-volume Festschrift was published for Herkner's teacher Lujo Brentano (1844–1931; Bonn and Palyi 1925). Brentano was one of the major German economists in the Schmoller generation but also a scholar mentioned in one of Simons's last pieces, “A Political Credo.” This late manifesto contains the “political predispositions” underlying Simons's political economy and situates Brentano explicitly in the intellectual tradition from Smith to Hayek in which Simons locates himself (Simons 1945 [1948]: 1). Herkner contributed a piece to the Brentano Festschrift that contains a truly noteworthy passage on the evolution of liberalism and his own proposal of “sociopolitical liberalism”: “Modern liberalism proposes, in contrast to the older liberalism which struggled above all against the abolition of obstructing obstacles, a positive, constructive program” (Herkner 1925: 47).

In this discussion of “modern liberalism,” Herkner refers to, among others, J. A. Hobson, Winston Churchill, and Lloyd George. Some of Herkner's policy proposals would very soon become trademarks of Old Chicago and Freiburg: social security without crowding out self-responsibility, correcting market failures through the state and cooperatives, fighting the power of monopolies, skepticism about inherited wealth, and attention to the balance of power in the labor market, including the notion of countervailing power (Herkner 1925: 47–52).

And with regard to the abovementioned “emancipation from seniors,” it is intriguing that almost immediately Mises attacked this “social liberalism,” taking Herkner's paper in the Brentano Festschrift to task already on the first pages of his rather aggressive review (Mises 1926: 242–54). However, it seems that the juniors at Chicago and Freiburg were not frightened by Mises's attack—on the contrary, it may well be that they felt even encouraged to further develop the “positive program” discernible in Herkner's sketch (Watrin 1979: 407–8). In a letter to Walter Lippmann of October 5, 1937, Simons was adamant that Mises's conception of the role of the state was “often fanatically extreme” and that Mises's contribution to liberalism “on balance, is probably a disservice.”11 Equally important for our exposition, the Festschrift also attracted Eucken's attention. He left Berlin in 1925 for a chair at Tübingen and in 1927 moved to Freiburg, where he would stay for the rest of his life. In one of his first publications from Freiburg, he reviewed the Festschrift and referred to Herkner's attempt to solve the crisis of liberalism by a “modern social liberalism” that, in contrast to the “old” liberalism, aimed at “the capacity to master the social problems of the present” (Eucken 1928: 550). In the very same vein, Röpke defended “social liberalism” against Mises's 1926 critique and attacked Mises for having caricatured this recent variety of liberalism as “a deformation and a heresy against the pure liberal doctrine” (Röpke 1931: 346).

For Simons just as for his teacher Knight, the cultural proximity to Germany and German academia was not interrupted even by the annus horribilis of 1933. Knight produced one of the first English translations of Max Weber in 1927 (Emmett 2006), and in June 1930 he sent letters to Simons from Vienna and Heidelberg that are illuminating about his cultural affinities. Apart from using a number of German terms, the letters clearly indicate that Knight himself was struggling with specificities of the language and that he encouraged Simons to improve his own competencies.12 Despite the increasing isolation of German academia with the rise of National Socialism, Simons and Knight sustained a certain level of connectivity to Germany also beyond 1933, mostly through émigrés, as discussed in section 4.1. However, that did not entail political compromises, as is clear from the sharp rhetoric about the German “political conditions” in Knight's rejection letter to Carl Brinkmann of May 25, 1936, upon the offer of an honorary doctorate from Heidelberg.13

Two final indications of Simons's connectivity to German political economy result from his profile as a public finance scholar. Richard Musgrave, a postwar public finance pioneer in the United States who emigrated from Heidelberg in 1933, emphasized that “the thinking of Henry Simons, the intellectual father of the American income tax tradition, was influenced greatly by the extensive German literature on income concepts and in particular the writings of Georg Schanz” (Musgrave 1983: 12).

In this vein, George Stigler jokingly reminisced in his biographical sketch of Simons how in Personal Income Taxation (Simons 1938) his teacher showed “his perverse pleasure in quoting the German literature only in the original” (Stigler 1974: 1). The book was Simons's dissertation, even though he never finished his PhD (Kasper 2003: 31). Studying his German quotations produces an impressive result about Simons's emphasis on German-language literature in Personal Income Taxation. His sources range from the 1840s to the 1930s, and he quotes from the Berlin luminaries Gustav Schmoller and Adolph Wagner, older historical economists like Wilhelm Roscher, protomarginalists like Karl Heinrich Rau, Austrians like Emil Sax, and public finance specialists like Georg von Schanz. Günter Schmölders, an economist with whom Eucken interacted during those same years (Köhler and Nientiedt 2017: 622–23), praised Simons's “familiarity with the European, and especially German, public finance literature which is rare in American publications” (Schmölders 1940: 183), and Simons thanked the publisher of the journal enthusiastically.14 His contribution led to a definition of income soon to become a classic under the name of “Schanz-Haig-Simons” (Feld 2000: 167–68). Perhaps indicating a change in the zeitgeist, both Ursula Hicks and Viner criticized Simons precisely for this focus on German sources (Hicks 1938; Viner to Simons, February 9, 1937).15

3.3. Dissidents with Distance to the National Capitals

Opposing the respective zeitgeist of the 1930s and 1940s in Washington and Berlin was formative for both groups, despite all fundamental differences between the two countries at the time. Seeing the New Deal as a dire threat to both economic and political liberty encouraged Simons to publish the “Positive Program” in the format of a public policy pamphlet in 1934 (Davenport 1946: 6–7; Kasper 2010: 332–33). In 1933 and 1934, Eucken actively opposed in the university senate the actions of Martin Heidegger, Freiburg's rector, who was an early supporter of the new regime. The experience led to Eucken's 1936 lecture “Der Kampf der Wissenschaft” (“The Battle of Science”) and to meetings with colleagues that, after 1938, developed into the “Freiburg Circles” of resistance against National Socialism (Goldschmidt 2013: 142–43).

Yet this stance did not mean that relevance for economic policy was not topical for the political economies of Old Chicago and Freiburg. The political economies in section 2 very much read as if a relevance check for economic policy was a litmus test for the type of politico-economic theorizing that became typical for both groups. In our interpretation, for the fin de siècle generation it was equally important to critically expand the theories of the Mises-Knight generation and to show their topicality and practicability for economic policy in shaping the restart of Western civilization after 1945.

On top of this awareness of practical relevance, both Simons and Eucken radiated in their lives and works a sense of urgency amid the world of disintegrating orders, an urgency felt by contemporaries. Aaron Director recounted how “Simons acted as if the end of the world was at hand” (Stein [1987] 2018: 12332), while George Stigler (1974: 5) reminisced how “Simons frequently invoked imminent and utter catastrophe as the justifications for his proposals.” Quite similarly, the British economist John Jewkes, who experienced the last days of Eucken's life during his lecture series in March 1950 at the LSE, where he died from a case of influenza, suggested that it was “a burden of work too great for any one man, which contributed to his final exhaustion and led to his untimely and tragic death” (Jewkes 1951: 8).

4. The Intersecting Roads: Lutz, Hayek, and the Renewal of the Liberal Order

Having depicted the shared understanding of the crisis of liberalism and the shared angst of disintegrating orders, we now turn to the intermediation between the two schools beyond the formative years. For the parallel emergence of so similar systems within the “laissez-faire within rules” research program, two personal transatlantic transmission channels deserve special attention: Friedrich A. Lutz, already in the interwar years, and Friedrich A. Hayek, particularly in the immediate postwar years. The institutional transmission channels of the LSE, the Mont Pèlerin Society, and the Walter Eucken Institute enhance the picture.

4.1. Lutz's Princeton as Interwar Conduit

We highlight Lutz as an interlocutor for five reasons. First, his lifelong proximity to Eucken reached beyond the purely professional level. Second, his stellar career in American academia made him unique within the Freiburg school. Third, in the United States he soon reached a high level of connectivity to top-tier US economists, not least those at Chicago. Fourth, he cultivated a decades-long nexus to Hayek that lasted until Lutz's death. Fifth, the recently processed Walter Eucken Papers at Jena have produced an extensive set of previously unexplored Eucken-Lutz correspondence that provides deep insights into the transatlantic lifeline to Freiburg. Before we delve into the correspondence, we provide a biographical sketch that indicates how his vita predestined him to become this crucial transmitter.16 After meeting Lutz in 1948 for the first time since Lutz's emigration ten years earlier, Eucken's former student Leonhard Miksch observed that they seemingly “live[d] on different stars” (July 30, 1948),17 and we reconstruct Lutz's efforts to connect these two “stars” despite all intricacies of the age.

4.1.1. The Eucken-Lutz Nexus over Thirty Years

Lutz was born in 1901 in Saarburg in Lorraine, then part of the German Empire, and died in 1975 in Zurich (Veit-Bachmann 2003; Hagemann 2008; Grudev 2021). He studied economics from 1920 to 1925 at Heidelberg and Berlin and met Eucken in Berlin. Lutz became Eucken's first doctoral student during Eucken's Tübingen tenure (1925–27), and in 1932 he defended at Freiburg his habilitation titled Das Konjunkturproblem in der Nationalökonomie (The Business Cycle Problem in Economics; Lutz 1932; Grudev 2019). In the academic year 1934–35 he was a Rockefeller Fellow in England, where he met and later married Hayek's doctoral student Vera C. Smith (Smith [1936] 1990). At the time, Lutz wrote his next book, Das Grundproblem der Geldverfassung (The Fundamental Problem of the Monetary Constitution; Lutz 1936) in the new Böhm-Eucken-Großmann-Doerth book series Ordnung der Wirtschaft (Order of the Economy). Here he addressed themes similar to those in Simons's “Rules versus Authorities in Monetary Policy” (Simons [1936] 1948). Again as a Rockefeller Fellow, he spent the academic year 1937–38 in the United States. After final lectures at Freiburg in the summer of 1938, he emigrated to the United States (Lenel 1976: 3).

In 1938, he joined Princeton's faculty. Initially holding the position of an instructor, by 1947 he had risen to full professor.18 He remained in this post until 1953, including a 1943–46 affiliation with the Institute for Advanced Study's School of Economics and Politics.19 Apart from being a formative teacher, for example of future Fed chair Paul Volcker (Silber 2012: 33–34), he was also the author of several papers on monetary economics in the Quarterly Journal of Economics and the American Economic Review (Lutz 1938, 1940b, 1945). In Zinstheorie (The Theory of Interest; Lutz [1956] 2006), probably his best-known book today, Lutz compares the interest theories of a variety of economists, including Knight and Hayek, and thus revisits the heated capital theory debate between the two in the 1930s (Cohen 2003). By the early 1940s Lutz was very well connected to the US economics profession in general and the Chicagoans in particular. Ten years later, he coedited with the Chicagoan Lloyd Mints an authoritative collection of papers on monetary economics on behalf of the American Economic Association (American Economic Association 1951).

Even during the war Lutz remained openly loyal to his Germany-based teacher. He reviewed Eucken's Die Grundlagen der Nationalökonomie (The Foundations of Economics; Eucken [1940] 1950) in a highly laudable tone for the American Economic Review (Lutz 1940a) and for LSE's Economica (Lutz 1944). In the postwar years, the connection to Eucken intensified anew. From 1948 onward, Lutz visited Freiburg regularly during the summer breaks (Hagemann 2008: 274). Even though Hayek invited him to the founding meeting of the Mont Pèlerin Society (MPS), Lutz's first MPS meeting was the 1948 business meeting in Basel, where he supported Eucken in his plea for a purely academic, nonactivist nature of the nascent MPS (Plickert 2008: 132n24; Hartwell 1995: 82–83). After Eucken's death in 1950, Lutz temporarily replaced him at Freiburg in the academic year 1951–52, but in 1953 he accepted a financially superior offer from the University of Zurich, where he remained until his retirement in 1972 (Lenel 1976: 4). In 1964 he became president of the MPS and, due to organizational intricacies, has been the only president of the MPS to serve two terms to date. The close connection to Freiburg remained, especially through the Walter Eucken Institute, which was founded in 1954 by Eucken's friends, associates, and students. Lutz served as a board member of the institute from 1954 until his death. Also, from 1950 until his death he served on the editorial board of the ORDO Jahrbuch and published numerous pieces in the yearbook.

4.1.2. The Eucken-Lutz Correspondence

The Eucken-Lutz correspondence starts in the 1920s and continues to the last weeks of Eucken's life. It adds up to more than one hundred letters (many undated), most of them long and handwritten.20 Since Lutz did not leave behind official papers (his personal library was integrated into the library of the Walter Eucken Institute), Eucken's replies are mostly missing unless he kept carbon copies. Like most of his students, Eucken lived in the increasingly self-isolating reich, so that in the late 1930s and early 1940s old acquaintances like Hayek and Röpke became his sole connectors to the free world, but even these connections became increasingly rare. Many of the Eucken-Lutz letters are personal and family-related; others are primarily of interest to the genesis and evolution of the Freiburg school. But after Lutz's emigration to the United Kingdom and later to the United States, the tone of the letters conveys the sense that Lutz had become the outlet for Eucken to Anglo-Saxon academia.

This type of exchange started in October 1934. Early on, Lutz wrote from the LSE that Knight was perceived there “as one of the best economists in the world” and recommended to Eucken Knight's Risk, Uncertainty, and Profit for Eucken's ongoing Foundations book project (January 16, 1935). In March 1936, Lutz reported from the LSE how “Keynes' new book is very difficult” and how “Hayek and the other gentlemen here are very interested in our books in Freiburg,” also mentioning Robbins, to whom Lutz had just given such books (Lutz to Eucken, March 10, 1936). After arriving in the United States, the letters regularly exhibit an émigré full of nostalgia for Europe and the community of German economists around Eucken. Before arriving at Princeton, Lutz wrote several long letters from Minnesota, Harvard, and Chicago. The reports from Harvard and Chicago are noteworthy in the peculiar ways he described émigrés like Schumpeter and Haberler as well as local luminaries like Hansen, Mitchell, Knight, and Viner. Lutz noticed early on at Harvard that, like himself, the émigrés were hampered by their lack of fluency in English. He also reported in a very personal formulation his (and Vera's) disappointment with the aging Schumpeter, whom he characterized as a “terrible poser.” In the same letter, he reported how “mathematics in our field, at least outside of Germany, is on the advance” and voiced skepticism about the path on which “the drilling of the students [at Harvard] in mathematical theory” might be leading economics (Lutz to Eucken, October 15, 1937). “Economics [at Harvard] is very different,” he observed (Lutz to Eucken, October 20, 1937). Once at Princeton, he was disenchanted with the “school-like” teaching methods required of him (Lutz to Eucken, November 11, 1938) but also with the “intensity of teaching in the US which no one in Germany can imagine” (Lutz to Eucken, April 17, 1940). During the Harvard weeks Lutz was full of enthusiasm about a tentative offer he had received via Hayek, who, while visiting Vienna, attempted to arrange for Lutz a position at Prague (Lutz to Eucken, October 24, 1937).

Ahead of Harvard, Friedrich and Vera had spent some weeks in Chicago, a city that they experienced as “free of fantasy or charm” and where Vera even felt “offended by America” (Lutz to Eucken, May 10, 1937). Lutz concluded that Chicago's department had a “decent composition,” but he immediately recognized the serious tensions between Viner and Knight and clearly sided with Viner, assessing “Viner's lectures to be the best” (Lutz to Eucken, May 12, 1937). Knight was depicted as a “very strange man who deals in the seminar with philosophy, power ideologies and sociology instead of economics,” while Viner was “the most influential economist here” and also the person who showed interest in Lutz's publications. Regarding Simons, the only remark identifiable in the letters is that he invited the Lutzes for dinner (Lutz to Eucken, May 10, 1937). While Lutz was writing his Fundamental Problem of the Monetary Constitution, Eucken urged his student to include reflections on the Chicago Plan of 100 Percent Money in the book (Lutz to Eucken, March 19, 1935), and Lutz endorsed this recommendation (Lutz 1936: 86–91).

The Lutz-Chicago nexus intensified in the context of the publication of Eucken's Foundations in early 1940. Already in April Lutz reported that he had commissioned a review from the American Economic Review that he had to do himself after not finding an American (“they are all too lazy to read German, if they can at all”; Lutz to Eucken, March 18, 1940). He had also spoken with Princeton University Press about a potential translation of the book, which “for the near future” did not appear too promising (Lutz to Eucken, April 17, 1940). In the same letter Lutz regretted that he was increasingly cut off from receiving German journals and thus not being able to read the German reviews of the Foundations, especially the one by Stackelberg. But the reactions from Chicago turned more enthusiastic. Lutz reported to have sent the book to Knight, who had responded in a highly positive manner after reading the first sections. Knight had praised the book as “an extraordinarily forthright and simultaneously original approach to the core issues of our science,” and Lutz mentioned further comments by Knight “of which you can be proud” (Lutz to Eucken, March 18, 1940). After several letters, Lutz's conclusion was that a publisher of an English translation could probably be found only after the war (Lutz to Eucken, June 23, 1940). He even organized a discussion evening about the book at Princeton, but this also did not bring the interest he hoped for (Lutz to Eucken, July 23, 1940). When Lutz's review was published in the American Economic Review (Lutz 1940a), he was disappointed by the journal's having shortened it, and he emphasized to Eucken, who could not receive the journal, that one of the main points in the review was “the problem of economic power” (Lutz to Eucken, November 2, 1940). In those same months, Lutz yet again expressed nostalgia for Europe but also his apprehensions about the increasingly heated atmosphere in the United States; moreover, when alluding to anti-German sentiments, he shared his fears whether “I will teach here in the next academic year” (Lutz to Eucken, December 25, 1940). In one of the final letters of the war years, Lutz reported that he had started reading Hayek's Pure Theory of Capital and that Haberler had been visiting Princeton, but when reflecting on the relationships between the émigrés, he concluded that “this group of economists does not speak nicely of each other” (Lutz to Eucken, May 2, 1941).

The postwar letters radiate new sentiments, especially as the transatlantic divide suddenly appeared surmountable. The evolution of Eucken's thought during the last decade of his life is elegantly extractable from his letters. Given the great respect for the wartime achievements of his student in monetary economics, Eucken was even more eager to discuss with Lutz both political economy as it emerged in his ongoing Grundsätze der Wirtschaftspolitik (Principles of Economic Policy) book project and technical economics as it emerged in his plan of a thoroughly revised edition of his 1934 Kapitaltheoretische Untersuchungen (Investigations into Capital Theory; Eucken to Lutz, November 6, 1946). Given his cordial relationship with Schumpeter before his move from Bonn to Harvard in 1932 (Dathe and Hedtke 2018), Eucken showed himself deeply disappointed by Schumpeter's treatment of the centrally planned economy in Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (Eucken to Lutz, June 9, 1947). He wrote about his gratitude to Hayek for having invited him to contribute a piece on the centrally planned economy for Economica in which Eucken planned to counter some of Schumpeter's claims. Lutz in turn told of Hayek's interest in Eucken's paper “Wissenschaft im Stile Schmollers” (“Science in Schmoller's Style”; Eucken 1940) and of having sent a copy to Hayek (Lutz to Eucken, October 21, 1945).

Eucken's letters reflect a curious double desire: to catch up with the missed decade of Anglo-Saxon economics but also to challenge some recent developments in Anglo-Saxon economics (Eucken to Lutz, December 31, 1948). He was especially disenchanted with two tendencies: first, the unrealistic assumptions in many of the new models; second, the limits of these models, omitting consideration of the dynamics of coordination and convergence to equilibrium (Eucken to Lutz, June 9, 1947). In addition, in an implicit reference to his theory of order, Eucken believed that many Anglo-Saxon economists focused on too-narrow problems “without the specific problems to fit into the overall process” (Eucken to Lutz, March 24, 1947) and that some of these economists “think too ‘globally’ in terms of the newly fashionable aggregates of macroeconomics” (Eucken to Lutz, December 18, 1947).

Sociologically, Eucken and Lutz shared an enthusiasm for new venues, such as the ORDO Jahrbuch and the MPS. Regarding the MPS, Lutz did not make it to the founding meeting in April 1947, calling it ahead of the conference “the Hayek meeting” (Lutz to Eucken, February 5, 1947). Speculating about the uncertainty of Eucken's receiving an exit visa from the French occupation zone, he assured his teacher that he would be “the only reason” for Lutz to make such a short transatlantic trip (Lutz to Eucken, March 12, 1947). When he learned that at the last moment Eucken had received the visa, Lutz very much regretted having missed the opportunity (Lutz to Eucken, May 3, 1947). Eucken wrote about his hopes to launch the ORDO Jahrbuch in the summer of 1947 and urged Lutz to start contributing from the very beginning (Eucken to Lutz, March 12, 1947). Once the yearbook started publication in 1948, Lutz contributed a piece to the second volume, “Geldpolitik und Wirtschaftsordnung” (“Monetary Policy and Economic Order”; Lutz 1949a), a paper that perfectly mirrored the two domains of the transatlantic conversation with his teachers during the preceding fifteen years.

From the United Kingdom, Lutz reported on his joint efforts with Hayek to publish a translation of the Foundations with William Hodge in London. He also noted that Robbins had read the book in the original already in 1947 and was “highly laudable” of it (Lutz to Eucken, September 8, 1947). Lutz wished to remain in Europe, which “despite its terrible situation is by far more interesting and exciting than the somewhat saturated America” (Lutz to Eucken, September 8, 1947). Several invitations to visit Freiburg and to give lectures and seminars followed, including Eucken's idea to give a joint seminar on employment theory with his former student (Eucken to Lutz, April 25, 1948). Again in Economica, Lutz applauded the German currency and price liberalization reforms of June 1948, which were heavily influenced by Eucken and his associates (Lutz 1949b). The final letters recount that Eucken had received an offer from Frankfurt, to which Böhm had moved after 1945, and that Eucken simultaneously attempted to arrange an offer for Lutz there (Eucken to Lutz, February 3, 1950). On his way to the tragic LSE lecture series, Eucken assured his US-based student that Lutz “certainly belonged to Europe” and hoped that the trip to London might be the beginning of acquainting Anglo-Saxon economics with the epistemological tools he and the Freiburg school had developed: “The crisis of Anglo-Saxon economic thought can only be overcome through morphological thought” (Eucken to Lutz, February 3, 1950).

The Wilhelm Röpke Papers offer a complementary angle on the Eucken-Lutz nexus as well as their connection to Simons during the immediate postwar months. Despite a 1941 controversy about Viner's rejection of a paper by Röpke in the Journal of Political Economy based on a harsh, nonanonymous referee report by Lutz (Christ 2018: 41–44), the Röpke-Lutz letters of 1945–46 are truly cordial, and Eucken was the central topic from the very first paragraph of the first letter (Röpke to Lutz, October 18, 1945). Both were relieved to learn that Eucken and his associates had survived the war and agreed to constantly update each other with news from Eucken and from Germany in general (Röpke to Lutz, October 18, 1945; Lutz to Röpke, October 28, 1945). Both shared a skepticism about Eucken's attempts to influence practical policy so soon after the war (Röpke to Lutz, December 17, 1945; Lutz to Röpke, July 23, 1946). Apart from an intellectual exchange with Eucken about “first and foremost, all aspects of the German catastrophe” (Röpke to Lutz, November 10, 1945) and recurrent ideas about lecturing at Freiburg, Röpke and Lutz were existentially worried about their Freiburgean friend. While Röpke wished he could “pull him over to Switzerland!” (Röpke to Lutz, November 10, 1945), Lutz even suggested sending dollars to Röpke for buying “fat parcels” in Switzerland and sending them to shortage-ridden Freiburg (Lutz to Röpke, July 23, 1946).21

During these same weeks, Röpke exchanged letters with Simons about Röpke's international journal project Occident “to rally the forces of liberal humanism in the Western world” (Röpke to Simons, November 10, 1945). Although eventually the project did not materialize, the funds raised for it were crucial for founding the MPS (Hennecke 2005: 159–64). The letters indicate that Röpke and Simons were well informed about each other's publications and that both were genuinely interested in meeting in person. Röpke approached Simons to win him as a “contributing editor” of the journal, along with Lutz, Eucken, and Hayek, hoping that Simons would write about “the main lines of constructive liberal programmes of today as compared with your own which I find most stimulating” (Röpke to Simons, December 18, 1945). Regretting that his “output of articles” was “small,” his interests primarily directed to American problems and his health “not good of late,” Simons voiced his “diffidence” about being useful for the project “without declining categorically.” Apart from the tone in the letter a few months ahead of his sudden death, a tone that bears signs of a depressed mind, it is noteworthy for our exposition that, of all potential alternatives for himself, the first option Simons suggested to Röpke was Lutz, the second being Fritz Machlup (Simons to Röpke, January 29, 1946).22

4.2. Hayek, the LSE, and the MPS as Postwar Conduits

To understand the role of the LSE as a conduit between the Continent and the United States, not only via Vera and Hayek, it is important to emphasize that Robbins also developed a special relationship with Eucken. It was Robbins's and Hayek's joint invitation that brought Eucken to London, where he died during the lecture series in March 1950 (Eucken 1951). Robbins met Eucken for the first time at the 1947 MPS meeting, and in 1948 he discussed the Foundations in his LSE principles lectures (Howson 2011: 682–83). Given the fact that Terence W. Hutchison's translation was published only in 1950 (Kolev, Goldschmidt, and Hesse 2020: 451–52), Robbins's decision to discuss a book in the German original by an author who had stayed in Germany during the war reads as a special acknowledgment amid blitz-scarred London.

At the founding meeting of the MPS in April 1947, Hayek organized something risky. In the very first session, titled “‘Free Enterprise’ and Competitive Order,” three presenters spoke: Director (for the deceased Simons), Eucken, and Hayek (Caldwell 2020: 30–35). Having a Jewish economist and a German nonémigré in the same session barely two years after the end of the war was a bold decision, but Hayek was fortunate that the German was Eucken. The joint session as well as the overall appreciation of Eucken, especially by the Americans, succeeded in “contributing a little, if I may use this term, to the rehabilitation of German scholars on the international scene” (Hayek [1983] 1992: 192). Decades later, Friedman and Stigler still recalled vividly their encounter with Eucken during their first trip to Europe (Friedman and Friedman [1998] 1999: 160; Stigler [1985] 1988: 146). Friedman reminisced how Eucken “made vivid what it was like to live in a totalitarian country. . . . His courage in resisting the Nazis became legendary. . . . More generally, his theory laid the groundwork for West Germany's ‘social market economy’” (Friedman and Friedman [1998] 1999: 160).

And while the transition to “New Chicago” is beyond the scope of this article, it is important to note that Friedman's early politico-economic publications radiated precisely the spirit of the rules-based framework and the competitive order he experienced at the first MPS meeting (Friedman 1948, 1951). This continued in Capitalism and Freedom, in which he referred to Simons and Eucken in the same passage as key authorities in competition policy (Friedman [1962] 2002: 28).

In their joint preparation of this meeting, Hayek enthusiastically informed Eucken after his 1946 trip to the United States about the group at Chicago and their work that, as Hayek saw it, focused on the “legal framework” (Hayek to Eucken, November 11, 1946).23 In the meantime Simons had passed away, and when informing Knight of his MPS plans, Hayek added a handwritten remark about his “great regret” that Simons, with whom he had discussed the plans “in some detail,” would not be with them (Hayek to Knight, December 12, 1946).24 When the three MPS statements of Director, Eucken, and Hayek are juxtaposed (Caldwell 2022: 69–98), they read as being in almost perfect harmony with each other. In other words, they read as concise versions of Simons's “Positive Program” aiming at setting up frameworks that enable the competitive order as the normative vision for postwar economic policy on both sides of the Atlantic. Thus 1947 became the dot that connected the long and winding roads taken in Berlin during the 1920s: the double transition toward an order-based approach in the positive analysis and the competitive order in the normative plea had been fully accomplished when the roads intersected at Mont Pèlerin.

Although the harmony was already disturbed during the 1949 meeting, with Mises again pitted against the fin de siècle generation, the remaining months until Eucken's death were characterized by a high-frequency, increasingly personal correspondence between Hayek as MPS president and Eucken as one of the vice presidents (Kolev, Goldschmidt, and Hesse 2020: 452–53).25 Hayek commissioned from Eucken an obituary for Heinrich von Stackelberg for the Economic Journal as well as a paper on the German experience with the centrally planned economy for Economica, both of which discuss the competitive order (Eucken 1948a, 1948b). The papers of Albert Hunold, longtime secretary of the MPS, contain an important trace of Hayek's plans for Eucken, torpedoed only by Eucken's unexpected death. When Hayek was thinking about stepping down as president, he shared with Hunold that even though it was “still too early,” he very much wished to see Eucken “sooner or later” as MPS president (Hayek to Hunold, March 25, 1949; Hayek to Hunold, April 1, 1949).26

A similar sense of particular appreciation is discernible from the few letters of Knight to Eucken. In 1947, they are already framed by “Dear friend Professor Eucken” (Knight to Eucken, December 16, 1947). At the end of their exchange Knight acknowledged the receipt of publications by Eucken, mentioning that he had been in possession of a first edition of the Foundations since 1940 (see sec. 4.1) and that he would be happy to receive the most recent edition, which he had heard was in the process of being translated into English (Knight to Eucken, May 5, 1949).27

Finally, the Henry Simons Papers contain a set of cordial letters between Simons and Lutz from the immediate postwar months.28 Much less formal than the Simons-Hayek correspondence, the correspondence focused, as Lutz called it in the first letter, on “the Hayek affair” or, in Simons's reply, “our conspiracy” (Lutz to Simons, May 17, 1945; Simons to Lutz, June 26, 1945). By that, they meant the “Free Market Study” project, initially termed the “Institute of Political Economy,” a policy-oriented institute at Chicago with Simons as its hub and with the special involvement of Hayek and Director. The project was motivated by Hayek's idea of an American version of The Road to Serfdom (1944) that would apply the arguments of the book to the specific institutional framework of the United States (Van Horn and Mirowski 2009: 143–58). In line with Eucken's plea to Hayek after The Road to Serfdom to become more concrete on the domains of economic policy (Goldschmidt and Hesse 2013), Lutz shared with Simons that “Hayek does not say when planning is good and when it is bad; he keeps in the realm of general ideas but does not develop a positive program. There is indeed a gap here of which he is very conscious and which he feels should be filled. I agree with him there” (Lutz to Simons, June 7, 1945).

In order to fill this gap, Lutz suggested “some of the problems which should be treated” by the envisioned institute and its director in order to design a set of frameworks (tax system, monetary arrangement, social security, competition in the labor market, concentration in industry and agriculture) that should all be “appropriate for a competitive order.” Equally important was the required legal system, the influence of power groups on economic policy, and issues of the international order (Lutz to Simons, June 7, 1945). In his last letter to Simons, Lutz referred to Hayek's burgeoning MPS project as “his Acton Society” and called it “an interesting idea” (Lutz to Simons, October 4, 1945). Hayek had informed Simons of this idea a few weeks earlier (Hayek to Simons, August 22, 1945). And while vis-à-vis Hayek Simons assessed Lutz's abovementioned suggestions for the institute as “very sensible,” he also reported to Hayek a conversation about the “Acton-Tocqueville Society” project with a University of Chicago official, especially as a “scheme for intellectual cooperation with German scholars and historiographers” (Simons to Hayek, July 2, 1945).29 However, the difficulties in establishing the institute further aggravated Simons's medical condition that culminated in his death on June 19, 1946 (Van Horn 2014).

The intensity in the Simons-Lutz-Eucken-Hayek nexus in the immediate postwar months is further confirmed by additional archival findings. The tensions of the fin de siècle generation with Mises, whose beginnings we identified in section 3.2 in the 1920s, flared up one last time, as voiced by Simons.30 Both in print and in correspondence, he expressed his annoyance with Mises's “old liberal or Manchesterite” stance in Omnipotent Government, criticized its lack of a positive program, and called Mises “the worst enemy of his own libertarian cause” (Simons 1944: 192), while contrasting this book to the “magnificent contribution” of The Road to Serfdom (Simons to Hayek, September 1, 1944).31 At that same time, Lutz was Hayek's favorite candidate to write the American version of The Road to Serfdom (Lutz to Simons, June 7, 1945), and he was also discussed as an alternative director of the Chicago institute if Simons would not step in (Caldwell 2011: 305–6).32 Finally, we could identify two letters by Hayek dated a few weeks after the deaths of Simons and Eucken, respectively. The letters make it very clear how personally close Hayek had become to both of them and how irreplaceable he saw them for this transatlantic nexus and the related endeavors, especially the MPS and the Chicago institute project (Hayek to Harold Luhnow, June 26, 1946; Hayek to Ludwig Erhard, June 30, 1950).33 Thus the shared research program in the Simons-Eucken-Hayek triangle, as it appeared likely to emerge around 1946, could not materialize.

4.3. Continuities and Breaks beyond 1950: The End of Old Chicago and Freiburg

Simons and Eucken left behind a large number of students, and these students continued the two traditions—albeit in their own ways. At Chicago, the year 1946 was a structural break of fundamental importance for at least two reasons (Mitch 2016): “The departure of Jacob Viner [to Princeton] and the passing of Henry Simons are the watersheds” (Bronfenbrenner 1962: 72–73) between Old Chicago and New Chicago. Moreover, the appreciation for Simons in the Friedman-Stigler generation declined over time. While they were laudatory in their Henry Simons Lectures (Stigler 1958; Friedman 1967), later on their reminiscences of Simons's political economy turned much more critical (Kitch 1983; De Long 1990), containing formulations like “he had a vague and contradictory picture of the state as an instrument of economic policy” (Stigler 1974: 4).

At Freiburg, continuity problems of a different kind came up around 1950. The death of Eucken's gifted student Miksch in the very same year as his teacher, Lutz's preference for Zurich over Freiburg in 1953, and Böhm's move to Frankfurt in 1945 and his preference to shape practical politics as a member of the Bundestag from 1953 to 1965 were shattering structural breaks. In addition, the all too reverent attitude of other Eucken students and their students to Eucken's legacy and their unwillingness to critically develop this legacy impeded the development of a “New Freiburg” (Feld and Köhler 2016: 71–76). That did not change even when, on the initiative of Eucken's widow, Hayek moved to Freiburg in 1962 (Vanberg 2013; Kolev 2021: 30–36).

5. The New Topicality of Order-Based Theorizing in the Twenty-First Century

This article aimed to delineate the parallel intellectual trajectories of two scholarly communities in the 1930s and 1940s. Instead of making claims of influence of the one on the other, we attempted to show how the political economists at Chicago and Freiburg, but also at Princeton and the LSE, were moving along very similar lines during this period. In their age of national and international orders falling apart, first post-1914 and then again post-1929, two major transitions took place in all those hubs. Following the acute years of the Great Depression, the fin de siècle generation moved: first, from students of equilibrium to students of order, and second, from students of positive orders to defenders of a specific normative order. The latter was captured by their shared vision of the competitive order with its rules-based framework. A journey that commenced in Berlin during the 1920s and culminated at the founding meeting of the MPS in 1947 produced two political economies with a stunning number of common traits, both on the theoretical and the applied policy levels.

Using Eucken's methodological notion of topicality, we conclude by suggesting another reason why Old Chicago and Freiburg as parts of the “laissez-faire within rules” research program, and the “thinking in orders” tradition more generally, experienced their post-1950 demise. Along with the increasing specialization of postwar economics that gave rise to differentiated subdisciplines like law and economics, public choice, and property rights, the world changed fundamentally. The decades of the Cold War were, all geopolitical tensions notwithstanding, fairly stable, so fundamental debates about (re)ordering the frameworks of economy and society became much less topical when compared to the fundamental fragility of economy and society during the 1930s and 1940s, or in the postcommunist countries during the 1990s. If we harness the recent juxtaposition of “contextual economics,” which highlights issues of orders, versus “isolating economics,” which highlights issues of equilibria in the market process within given orders (Goldschmidt, Grimmer-Solem, and Zweynert 2016), many postwar research programs can be understood as a shift away from the contextual economics of the 1930s and 1940s and toward isolating economics.

For better or worse, today we live in an age in which neither the national nor the international orders are particularly robust or stable. In this context, further research into the insights generated by the fin de siècle generation appears worthwhile, and not only for the discourses within the history of economics or within academia. As proclaimed by James Buchanan, a student of Old Chicago in the 1940s (Johnson 2014; Marciano 2020) and an admirer of Freiburg later in his life (Vanberg 2014; Kolev 2018a), the final addressee of politico-economic research is the citizen, so “the task for the constitutional political economist is to assist individuals, as citizens who ultimately control their own social order” (Buchanan 1987: 250). Exploring an age of fragile orders and its theorists like these who lived through the 1930s and 1940s can provide today's citizen with topical lessons for the artisanship of orders performed jointly by the political economist and the citizen (Ostrom 1980). Little of this is a “German oddity,” in contrast to the claims in the recent literature on ordoliberalism discussed at the beginning of the article, but rather an overarching concern in most Western democracies amid their current fragility.

We dedicate this article to the memory of James M. Buchanan (1919–2013). His presentations at the Summer Institutes for the History of Economic Thought at George Mason University (2008) and the University of Richmond (2009–12), as well as his comments on the paper in private correspondence, were the crucial inspiration to initiate and continue this project. Earlier versions were presented at the 2010 Summer Institute for the History of Economic Thought at the University of Richmond, the 2011 HES Conference at the University of Notre Dame, the 2016 AEA/ASSA Conference in San Francisco, the 2019 HES Conference at Columbia University, and the Colloquium on Market Institutions and Economic Processes at New York University in February 2020. Like the other articles in this minisymposium, it was presented and discussed at the one-day conference in January 2020 organized by the Center for the History of Political Economy at Duke University. We thank the participants at these conferences, two anonymous referees, and Bruce Caldwell, Ross Emmett, Nils Goldschmidt, David Levy, Sandra Peart, and Luigi Zingales.

Notes

1.

Among others, Blyth 2013; Feld, Köhler, and Nientiedt 2015; Brunnermeier, James, and Landau 2016; Nientiedt and Köhler 2016; Bonefeld 2017; Beck and Kotz 2017; Biebricher and Vogelmann 2017; Hien and Joerges 2017; Köhler and Nientiedt 2017; Commun and Kolev 2018; Fèvre 2018; Slobodian 2018; Biebricher 2019; Dold and Krieger 2020; and Germann 2021.

2.

See Köhler and Kolev 2011; Köhler and Kolev 2013.

3.

For contemporaneous discussions of the concept of the competitive order and its relevance for political economy, see Beckerath 1937 and Peacock 1950.

4.

For the centrality of the competitive order in Röpke’s analysis of Europe’s post-1914 tragedy and the prospects for its postwar reconstruction, see Pribram 1944.

5.

For a topos-centered comparative interpretation of the theories of order of Eucken (with the topos of power), Hayek (knowledge), Röpke (societal cohesion), and Mises (private autonomy), see Kolev 2017.

6.

Unless noted otherwise, all translations from German publications and correspondence are our own.

7.

Along with a review of Tullock’s edition of Economics 201 (Samuels 1985), Warren Samuels (2005) provided an edition of lecture notes of Simons’s Economics 201 and Economics 360 (public finance).

8.

Archive of the Republic, Moscow Special Archive, collection 623, “Ludwig von Mises” (box 6, folder 81), Austrian State Archive Vienna.

9.

Henry C. Simons Papers, folder “Lutz, Friedrich A.” (box 4, folder 23), Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago; Walter Eucken Papers, folder “Friedrich A. von Hayek,” Thüringer Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Jena, University of Jena.

10.

Knight and Viner differed in their appreciation for Simons. In a letter to Viner from Iowa, Knight called Simons “my friend” and praised his recent development at Iowa. While Viner was positive about Simons’s “intellectual capacity,” he expressed “skepticism as to his capacity for sustained effort not yielding constant mental exhilaration.” Knight to Viner, July 13, 1925; Viner to Knight, July 31, 1925. Jacob Viner Papers, folder “Knight, Frank H.” (box 16, folder 24), Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University.

11.

Henry C. Simons Papers, folder “Lippmann, Walter” (box 4, folder 18), Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago.

12.

Henry C. Simons Papers, folder “Knight, Frank H.” (box 3, folder 73), Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago.

13.

Frank Hyneman Knight Papers, folder “Brady, Alexander–Buchanan, James M.” (box 3, folder 2), Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago.

14.

Henry C. Simons Papers, folder “J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck)” (box 4, folder 50), Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago.

15.

Jacob Viner Papers, folder “Simons, Henry C.” (box 24, folder 11), Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University.

16.

For a more detailed exposition of Lutz’s life, see Grudev 2021.

17.

Leonhard Miksch Diary, Institute Library, Walter Eucken Institute.

18.

Alumni and Faculty Offprint Collection, folder “Lutz, Friedrich” (box 29, folder 12), Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University.

20.

Walter Eucken Papers, folder “Friedrich A. Lutz,” Thüringer Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Jena, University of Jena. We thank Dr. Uwe Dathe for his guidance in the archival collection. All letters between Eucken and Lutz quoted in sec. 4 are from this collection.

21.

Wilhelm Röpke Papers, folder “Friedrich A. Lutz,” Institute for Economic Policy, University of Cologne.

22.

Wilhelm Röpke Papers, folder “Henry C. Simons,” Institute for Economic Policy, University of Cologne.

23.

Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, folder “Eucken, Walter 1939–1950” (box 18, folder 40), Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

24.

Frank Hyneman Knight Papers, folder “Hawes, Raymond–von Hayek, F. A.” (box 4, folder 6), Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago.

25.

Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, folder “Eucken, Walter 1939–1950” (box 18, folder 40), Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Walter Eucken Papers, folder “Friedrich A. von Hayek,” Thüringer Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Jena, University of Jena.

26.

Albert Hunold Papers, folder “Friedrich A. von Hayek,” Institute for Economic Policy, University of Cologne.

27.

Walter Eucken Papers, folder “Frank H. Knight,” Thüringer Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Jena, University of Jena.

28.

Henry C. Simons Papers, folder “Lutz, Friedrich A.” (box 4, folder 23), Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago. The letters quoted in the next two paragraphs are from this collection.

29.

Henry C. Simons Papers, folder “Institute of Political Economy” (box 8, folder 9), Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago.

30.

Two decades later, in his presidential address to the MPS in Tokyo on September 5, 1966, Lutz included a jocular remark about Mises. While reflecting on the current state of liberalism, Lutz emphasized how the combination of “university teachers who are first class theorists” and “bright students” had produced successful groups, the examples being “the Chicago group, the University of Virginia group and—working on his own, I believe—Professor von Mises in New York.” Mont Pèlerin Society Records, folder “1966, Tokyo, Japan (Regional Meeting)” (box 17, folder 9), Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

31.

Henry C. Simons Papers, folder “von Hayek, Friedrich A.” (box 3, folder 40), Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago.

32.

Henry C. Simons Papers, folder “Lutz, Friedrich A.” (box 4, folder 23), Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago.

33.

Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, folder “William Volker Fund/1939–1948” (box 58, folder 16); Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, folder “Erhard, Ludwig 1950–1962” (box 73, folder 25), Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

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