In his recent wonderful book, Classical Liberalism and the Austrian School, Ralph Raico gives Eugen Richter (1830-1906), the neglected hero of authentic German liberalism, his due. As I read the chapter, I kept feeling as if I was reading about Ron Paul.
Just as Ron Paul has been “Dr. No” in Congress, Richter was a veritable “Herr Nein” (or as one German historian called him, “the eternal nay-sayer”) in the Reichstag.
Like Paul, Richter waged a one-man “two-front war” against statism on both the right (the imperialism, paternal welfarism, and crony capitalism of Bismarck and his ilk) and the left (the outright Marxism of the Social Democrats). And just like Paul, he was mocked by both sides for his intransigent commitment to liberty.
And yet, even Richter’s enemies, like Paul’s, couldn’t help but admire such resoluteness in their uncynical moments. Bismarck himself said that Richter was,
“Very well informed and conscientious; with disobliging manners, but a man of character. Even now he does not turn with the wind.”
This is a particularly remarkable compliment coming from a man who Richter often drove to the point of exasperation. Raico tells us,
“His tireless probing into every single expenditure once caused Bismarck to cry out that in this fashion one would never come to the end of a budget.”
Raico also tells us,
Regarding his interrogation of a minister on a financial matter, Richter wrote, with proud underscoring: “But I didn’t let go.”
Ron Paul could proudly say the same for himself after his many interrogations of Greenspan and Bernanke.
Had Germany heeded the warnings of Eugen Richter about imperialism and economic interventionism, its people would have been saved from the countless sufferings that befell them after Richter’s passing in 1906. Let that be a lesson for America, as it considers the warnings of its own champion of authentic liberalism.
Note: Also see Richter’s prescient work of dystopian fiction, Pictures of a Socialist Future.