_ Yuri C. Kofner, economist, MIWI Institute. Recherche Dresden, May 2023.*
German right-liberal (freiheitlich-rechts) economic policy in the 21st century faces two major challenges.
The first is of a pragmatic nature. Germany is currently experiencing the most severe economic crisis since the post-war period. If a right-wing liberal party like the Alternative for Germany (AfD) were to be elected to government responsibility, how would it help the country regain economic momentum in the short term and new competitiveness and prosperity growth in the long term? Vague election brochures are not enough. What is needed are concretely elaborated “first-hundred-day programmes”, conceptual packages of policy measures and scenario assessments.
The second, and deeper problem, concerns the theoretical foundations of right-liberal economic convictions and how they can be adapted to the conditions of the 21st century. Is it possible to define the cornerstones of “new-right” economics? Can it be distinguished from the dichotomy between market liberalism and centrally planned economy? What are its goals, objects and approaches?
In recent years, the German think tank “Recherche Dresden” has made a valuable contribution to the formulation of a new right-wing economic policy. And this has become increasingly necessary. Without defining its own demanding school of economics, it will be impossible to offer implementable and thus convincing economic policy solutions “from the right”. But this would also provide more convincing solutions in strongly related key areas such as migration, labour- and social policy, which are of utmost importance for any further electoral success of parties like the AfD.
The purpose of this paper is therefore to outline the objects (for whom do we want to achieve), goals (what do we want to achieve) and approaches (how do we want to achieve) of a new right-liberal economic policy.
Liberal (freiheitlich) because it is based on personalist morality and on free market competition, which, as we shall see, is the most effective process of resource allocation.
New-right, since it rejects both totalitarian fascist corporatism and defensive backward-looking conservatism, and in contrast seeks to bring happiness and prosperity to traditional identity categories “into the future”. 
In a sense, this paper aims to pave the way for an irenic synthesis between two traditional German schools of thought: Ordoliberalism and the Conservative Revolution.
Object: Cathedral personality
The main object of new right-liberal economic policy can be considered to be the multi-layered Christian concept of “cathedral personality”, which is an outgrowth of the philosophy of communitarian personalism. In the 1920s, this concept was developed by the Russian émigré intelligentsia in Europe, especially in Germany.
This concept offers the possibility of bridging the gap between individual liberty, the absolutisation of which has been the main criticism of right-wing intellectuals, and the communal identities of family, peoples, locus, culture, nation and God as anchor points of right-wing politics.
The cathedral personality, also called the “symphonic personality”, declares the unquestionable primacy of individual free will and the absolute value of each soul as made in the image of God, but at the same time argues that the notion of individual freedom is incomplete and even potentially dangerous without the moral bond to and through the multi-layered social community – family, peoples, locus, tradition, culture and nation.
Thus, this concept corresponds beautifully with the conservative thoughts of the ordoliberals Wilhelm Röpke and Alfred Müller-Armack, two of the founding fathers of the German social market economy model. It also fits with the right-wing critique of “alienation” in the form of synthetic mass culture, materialist economism, consumerism and atomisation, such as Martin Heidegger’s rejection of the mechanistic “frame” (Gestell) in favour of the organic “community” (Gemeinschaft).
In this sense, new right-liberal economic thinking can also be seen as an “irenic third way” between market liberalism and right-wing traditionalism. Its politics must act in the interest of the “cathedral personality”, consisting of the unity of the individual, whose behaviour is guided by traditional (Christian) morality, and the historically grown collective identities of family, peoples, place, culture and nation. These categories are interdependent and complement each other to form a complex living breathing organism – symbolic of a Russian matryoshka doll.
Goal: Earthly prosperity in humility towards heaven
What is the goal of a new right-liberal economic policy? The answer is quite simple: to secure happiness and prosperity – both material and spiritual – for the cathedral personality and its composing parts.
Using the tripartite approach into the main political ideologies – liberalism, socialism and conservatism – the goal can also be seen as an ideal social state to be achieved or maintained through the political economy. The ideological “utopia” of conservatism lies somewhere in the potentially mythologised past. In socialism, it lies in the future. And materialist liberalism promises its hedonistic realisation in the present.
The new right-liberal utopia, on the other hand, combines elements of all three political ideologies – it is fixated on historically grown identities and traditions (the past) the “flame” of which is continuously passed on to new generations (the future); it can be realised in our time (the present), but only as an inferior image of a higher transcendent (Christian) moral order (i.e. heaven). Achieving material and spiritual flourishing for the cathedral personality and its formative parts is the main goal and it can only be achieved within this framework.
The liberal new-right ideal thus goes beyond the utopias of three main political ideologies and constitutes a “fourth political ideology”.
Approach: “Liberty in order”
In the economic process, how can the goal of ensuring spiritual happiness and material prosperity for the object of cathedral personality be achieved? Which approach is the best? For this purpose, four important categories are considered: market competition, order, growth and history.
On the one hand, private enterprise and competition should be the main principle of the new right-liberal market economy. On the one hand, this is based on the above-mentioned (Christian) moral guideline of personalistic free will as the social foundation, even if it is bound up in and based on the communal identities of family, peoples, nation and faith. Moreover, any “solidarity patriotism” is only authentic and sustainable if it is based on the voluntariness of the members of the solidarity community.
Beyond mere ethics, freer economic systems are also more efficient in the long run and thus more internationally competitive than state-led systems. In fact, liberal market economies not only provide higher material prosperity, but are also more Pareto-efficient. For example, the top performers in the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom Index are generally also the countries with the highest GDP per capita, the highest average wages (by purchasing power parity), the highest labour productivity and the lowest air pollution.
From a purely pragmatic point of view as well, right-wing economic models must be organised “freely” in order to keep their promise of defending traditional identities and values. If a right-wing populist government overdoes it with “solidarity-based” income redistribution for the autochthonous population or with protectionism in favour of national industries, such states will be overtaken in the long run by more “liberal” and thus more dynamic, but potentially less conservative economies. This line of thought is also shared by Viktor Orban, the prime minister of a country that has the lowest corporate tax rate (8 percent in 2021) and the tax rates and wage tax wedges of which are 5 percentage points lower than in Germany.
Remarkably, both the concepts of survival of the fittest through fair (sporting) competition and of (economic) development in cycles through “creative destruction” are central to both the Austrian school of economics and the Conservative Revolution.
Friedrich August von Hayek advocated free competition between companies, ideas and institutions because, in his opinion, only this can produce the best possible results. Moreover, he was thus a strong advocate of traditions, seeing them as the result of the decentralised common knowledge of a multitude of past generations, crystallised through the evolutionary selection process of practices, ideas, and social institutions over the centuries through market competition. 
The concept of “creative destruction” and cyclical evolutionary development can be traced from the Keynesian-critical economist Joseph Schumpeter to Werner Sombart, economist of the historical school of national economics, and all the way back to Friedrich Nitzsche. The cyclical development of societies via destruction, growth and decline was a key concept for both Armin Mohler and Oswald Spengler.
Order state (Ordnungsstaat)
Although the principles of free-market competition and private enterprise were accorded a central role in the economic process, most libertarian economists of the German-Austrian type were at the same time the harshest critics of corporate lobbying, unfair competitive practices, cartels, monopolistic market concentration. They emphasised the role of a strong state as a just and neutral “sporting referee” to uphold fair play on the market.
This was especially true of the conservative Freiburg school of economics, which called on the state to create and guarantee orders (framework conditions) for fair competition and for the free development of ideas, citizens and companies on the market.
The founding fathers of the social market economy such as Wilhelm Röpke saw the positive “ordering” role of the state and emphasised the fundamental importance of humanitarian and traditional values “beyond supply and demand”. Ordoliberalism is strongly influenced by the Christian scholastics of Thomas Aquinas. Walter Eucken even went so far as to say: “Economic policy (…) should realise the free natural God-given order”.
The political art, however, according to the Ordoliberals, is for the state to guide the economy through the right market design (orders), but to keep direct state intervention to a minimum.
Contrary to the misunderstanding of some earlier and also more recent right-wing authors, ordoliberalism, and thus the new right-liberal economic thought based on it, does not allow for a weak state that is made prey to the interests of corporate lobbies. Instead, both schools advocate a strong state. However, its strength lies not in its total omnipresence, but in its monopoly on the use of force and the strong will of its statesmen to maintain a fair public order and to defend the freedoms of its citizens, as historian Dmitrious Kisoudis puts it. René Aust, socio-political spokesperson of the Thuringian AfD state parliamentary group, therefore talks of an “athletic state” in contrast to the “lean state”. Such an interpretation thus corresponds to the “primacy of the political” outlined by Carl Schmitt.
New right-liberal economic policy is directed against the state capture and defends traditional local and community identities – civil liberties, the locally rooted middle class (i.e. the “Somewheres”), the family, the nation, etc. – against both “woke capitalism” and left intellectuals and pressure groups.
Environmentally friendly growth
New-right publicists like Alain de Benoist rightly reject materialist economism and soulless mass consumption in favour of locally oriented environmentalism and conservative moderation. However, they sometimes overshoot the mark with romanticising anti-capitalist degrowth rhetoric.
As explained above, to be successful and attractive, a new-right economic model of society must compete internationally for wealth, technology and security leadership. And this can only be done through continuous economic growth.
Moreover, from Thomas Malthus to the Club of Rome to the climate-extremist “Last Generation”, all forecasts about the limits to growth – whether in hydrocarbons, food or demography – have turned out to be empirically unfounded. The anthropological problem of scarcity has so far always been adequately solved within the framework of ecosystem balance (see, e.g., the Boserup model): via a functioning transparent price mechanism based on supply and demand and with the help of innovations and technological progress.
Research clearly shows that the more capitalist a country is, the better its environmental performance. The justification of such an approach is in clear contrast to the left-green, globalist degrowth narrative and is, for example, convincingly demonstrated empirically by economists like Björn Lomborg and Hans-Werner Sinn in the case of the climate debate.
Own economic history
The German historical school of national economics (historische Schule der Nationalökonomie) was developed in the 19th century and emphasised both the historical and cultural context of economic development and the importance of moral and ethical considerations in economic policy. Taking up their approach, new right-liberal economics should always try to look back at the German historical experience in order to find food for thought in order to be able to distinguish the right emphasis and policy directions for the future.
For example, the narratives of the Protestant work ethic identified by Werner Sombart could provide inputs for future labour market policy.
For example, 90 per cent of Germany’s foreign trade is conducted by sea, three of the five largest European ports are located on the German north coast, our country ranks 6th in terms of shipping fleet ownership and 2nd in terms of total cargo volume. Here, for example, the medieval Hanseatic League could be an impetus for developing a new ambitious German maritime geopolitics similar to the Chinese project of the New Silk Road.
For example, the Wilhelminian Empire can serve as further inspiration for the free-market economic model: With the first modern social security system, an exemplary education system, massive infrastructure investments, an extremely liberal tax system (in 1913, the tax-to-GDP ratio was 8 per cent) and a well-developed stock market, the empire boasted astonishing per capita GDP growth, dominance in the natural sciences and world-leading industrial corporations.
For further discussion
This paper provides only an introductory overview of the goals, objects and principles of the new right-liberal economic model. It is hoped that it will stimulate further intensive discussion.
In the next contributions, I intend to propose some concrete policy tasks in the sense of the new right-liberal approach with regard to individual wealth formation, tax policy, family and gender policy, demography, (re-)migration, robotization, culture as a public good, popular education, state research funding, SME policy, regional economic integration and foreign economic relations.
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*First published in: Heft 18: Konservative Alternativen. Recherche Dresden. Juni 2023.