Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Politics of Johann Wolfgang Goethe has a piece by Hans-Hermann Hoppe on The Politics of Johann Wolfgang Goethe.

Most Europeans know that he was the greatest of all German writers and poets and one of the giants of world literature. Less well known is that he was also a thorough-going classical liberal, arguing that free trade and free cultural exchange are the keys to authentic national welfare and peaceful international integration. He also argued and fought against the expansion, centralization, and unification of government on grounds that these trends can only hinder prosperity and true cultural development.
This of course is consistent with the analysis I gave of a famous passage from his Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship.

Overall Hoppe's piece is a great overview of who Goethe was. Goethe wasn't just a genius -- he was a universal genius. He did not just write on a variety of subjects -- he did groundbreaking work in those subjects. And that was when he wasn't writing some of the best poetry in any language.

The piece ends with Goethe's support for what was essentially a Germany made of independent states with no central government -- a structure also supported by Nietzsche (who, not coincidentally, idolized Goethe) on the grounds that such a structure actually helped keep German culture vital. Nietzsche even went so far as to suggest that there was an inverse relationship between the strength of culture and the strength of government. Something for Austrian economics literary theorists to think about, perhaps.

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