Social market economy

Social market economy

The social market economy was the main economic model used in Western and Northern Europe during the Cold War era. It originated in West Germany, and it is known as Soziale Marktwirtschaft in German.

In West Germany, the social market model was created and implemented by the Christian Democrat Ludwig Erhard, Minister of Economics under Konrad Adenauer's chancellorship and German Chancellor in his own right from 1963 to 1966.


The social market economy seeks a middle path between socialism and capitalism (i.e. a mixed economy), combining private enterprise with state ownership of strategic industries or resources, and aims at maintaining a balance between a high rate of economic growth, low inflation, low levels of unemployment, good working conditions, social welfare, and public services, by using state intervention.

Basically respecting the free market, the social market economy is opposed to both a planned economy and laissez-faire capitalism. Erhard once told Friedrich Hayek that the free market economy did not need to be made social but was social in its origin. [F. A. Hayek, "The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism" (University of Chicago Press, 1991), p. 117.]

In a social market economy, collective bargaining is often done on a national level not between one corporation and one union, but national employers' organizations and national trade unions.

Important figures in the development of the concept include Franz Oppenheimer, Walter Eucken, Wilhelm Röpke, Franz Böhm and Alfred Müller-Armack, who originally coined the term "Soziale Marktwirtschaft". [cite journal|author=Friedrich, Carl J.|year=1955|title=The Political Thought of Neo-Liberalism|journal=American Political Science Review|volume=49|issue=2|pages=509–525|doi=10.2307/1951819]


At first controversial, the model became increasingly popular in West Germany and Austria, since in both states economic success ("Wirtschaftswunder") was identified with it. From the 1960s, the social market economy was the main economic model in mainland Western Europe, pursued by administrations of both the centre-right (usually led by Christian-democratic parties) and the centre-left (usually led by Social-democratic parties).

Southern European states preferred large-scale public services, high salary growth rates and a low unemployment rate over low inflation, low national debt, low public expenditure and other economic health policies.

Following the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989, most centre right parties gradually moved towards the highly capitalist economic policies of neoliberalism, and a significant portion of the centre left made a similar move, developing the "Third Way". Nevertheless, Social market economy is still the common economic basis of most political parties in Germany [Hamburg Programme of the SPD, page 24,] [CDU on 60 years of Social market economy,] [Wiesbaden Programme of the FDP, page 14,] and a commitment to some form of social market economy was present in the European Union Constitution (now in limbo following the referenda in France and the Netherlands).


ee also

*Mixed economy
*Social Market Foundation
*Note: The "social market economy" is not to be confused with the "socialist market economy" - the economic system of the People's Republic of China.

External links

* [ The Social Market Economy] - U.S. Library of Congress
* [ Essay on Germany's Social Market Economy]
* [ Short Definition from the "Economist"]

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