Ropke: Strong Inducements

“In any event, the motives for saving are highly sensitive and vulnerable, and very little would probably be saved if nature and society had not created very strong inducements to save, such as illness, debility in old age, uncertain expectation of life, and the institution of the family. These inducements to save are a powerful support for our economic and social freedom, but they can be systematically destroyed if one only tries. This is precisely what we are busy doing nearly everywhere now, in the age of the welfare state and loosening family ties, forgetting that we are thereby chopping away at the very roots of our free society and economy. To say it briefly, today’s super-state, with its super-budget, super-taxation, and super-welfare programs, has developed into a colossal apparatus for dissaving and, at the same time, an apparatus of inflation and growing compulsion. To close the vicious circle, this same inflation, which is due to insufficient saving, gravely impairs further saving because it shakes lthe saver’s confidence in the stability of his savings’ value.

This development is well epitonlized in the story of an old miner which a pit manager from the Ruhr told me recently. The old man had put aside a tidy sum for his and his wife’s old age, but suddenly he decided to blow it all and to spend his little fortune on a luxury television set and other things. Surprised, the manager asked him why he had suddenly changed his mind and was spending all his savings; the old miner replied that the welfare state was now taking care of him anyway and there was therefore no reason why he should deny himself the immediate enjoyment of what he had set aside for his old age.”

– Wilhem Röpke, A Humane Economy (pp. 202-203)

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