Social Market Economy and the European Union. Ordnungspolitik during the Crisis

AuthorMichael Wohlgemuth
PositionWalter Eucken Institute Freiburg, Germany
T EA U R, V. 1 N. 0/2014
Social Market Economy and the European Union.
Ordnungspolitik during the Crisis
Michael Wohlgemuth*
Abstract. Although the notion Ordnungspolitik still remains foreign to many Europeans, it could
be seen as a leitmotiv of Social Market Economy. The history of European integration has not
followed Röpke’s ideal of “bottom-up integration”, of liberalism and charity that begins “at home”.
However, European integration has to some extent been successful in terms of Ordnungspolitik.
This is mainly thanks to the handover of responsibilities such as open markets and the protection
of competition to largely independent bodies (such as the European Commission and the ECJ).
However, in the area of fiscal and monetary policy, self-commitment via Treaties (the Stability
and Growth Pact) and delegation (ECB) has proven itself to be inadequate and lacking in
credibility. Thereby, the current crisis of confidence can be resolved only through more credible self-
commitment to the principles of Ordnungspolitik. Today we face the danger of confuse integration
with standardisation and a politically correct view held during top-level discussions on European
policy. But we should not forget Röpke’s warning that interventionist centralisation could turn into
“an explosive tool for disintegration”.
Key-words: Social Market Economy; Ordnungspolitik; European Integration
1. Social Market Economy as a Goal; Ordnungspolitik as a Foreign Word
Today it seems that the Social Market Economy has emerged as the almost
undisputed victor. In their political manifestos and debates all the parties in
the German Bundestag now invoke “the” Social Market Economy. And what
is more, all 27 Member States of the European Union have now ratied the
Treaty of Lisbon, which includes the following under Art. 3(3): “a highly
* Walter Eucken Institute Freiburg, Germany

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