Social market economy

Konrad Adenauer, a proponent of the social market economy

Socioeconomic model combining a free-market capitalist economic system alongside social policies and enough regulation to establish both fair competition within the market and generally a welfare state.

- Social market economy

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Christian democracy

Political ideology that emerged in 19th-century Europe under the influence of Catholic social teaching, as well as neo-Calvinism.

Woodcut from Cesare Ripa's Iconologia depicting the Allegory of Dignity

Christian democrats support a social market economy.


Economic theory asserting that the world's productive assets should be widely owned rather than concentrated.

Distributism's relation to socialism and capitalism
William Cobbett's social views influenced G. K. Chesterton
Self-portrait of Chesterton based on the distributist slogan "Three acres and a cow"

It has also partially influenced Christian democratic social market economy.

Ludwig Erhard

German politician affiliated with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and chancellor of West Germany from 1963 until 1966.

Erhard in 1964
Konrad Adenauer and Ludwig Erhard in 1956
Ludwig Erhard in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, 1964
Charles de Gaulle and Ludwig Erhard (1965)
Johnson and Erhard, December 1963
Ludwig Erhard and Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, 1967

During that period he promoted the concept of the social market economy (soziale Marktwirtschaft), on which Germany's economic policy in the 21st century continues to be based.


German variant of economic liberalism that emphasizes the need for government to ensure that the free market produces results close to its theoretical potential but does not advocate for a welfare state.

Ludwig Erhard with Konrad Adenauer in 1956, while Erhard was Minister of Economics

Ordoliberal ideals became the foundation of the creation of the post-World War II German social market economy and its attendant Wirtschaftswunder.

Third Way

Political position akin to centrism that attempts to reconcile right-wing and left-wing politics by advocating a varying synthesis of centre-right economic policies with centre-left social policies.

Bob Hawke, who along with Paul Keating laid the groundwork to both New Democrats and New Labour as well as Third Way politics
Matteo Renzi, the former Italian Prime Minister, a Third Way politician
Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, early adherents of the Third Way in the 1990s
Anthony Giddens and President Clinton, two Third Way proponents
Wim Kok, who led two purple coalitions as Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1994-2002

The term was picked up again in the 1950s by German ordoliberal economists such as Wilhelm Röpke, resulting in the development of the concept of the social market economy.

Social liberalism

Leonard Hobhouse, one of the originators of social liberalism, notably through his book Liberalism, published in 1911.
Thomas Hill Green
Friedrich Naumann
Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States, whose New Deal domestic policies defined American liberalism for the middle third of the 20th century
David Lloyd George, who became closely associated with this new liberalism and vigorously supported expanding social welfare
British leaflet from the Liberal Party expressing support for the National Health Insurance Act of 1911 and the legislation provided benefits to sick and unemployed workers, marking a major milestone in the development of social welfare
Alexander Rüstow

Social liberalism (Sozialliberalismus, socioliberalismo) also known as new liberalism in the United Kingdom, modern liberalism in the United States, left liberalism (Linksliberalismus) in Germany and progressive liberalism (Liberalismo progresista) in Spanish-speaking countries, is a political philosophy and variety of liberalism that endorses a social market economy within an individualist economy and the expansion of civil and political rights.


The Volkswagen Beetle was an icon of post-war West German reconstruction. The pictured example was a one-off version manufactured to celebrate the production of a million cars of the type.
German refugees from the east in Berlin in 1945
War damage in a German city in Saxony in 1945
Builders in West Berlin working on a project funded with Marshall Aid, 1952
Mooserboden reservoir, Kaprun, 1968

The Wirtschaftswunder (, "economic miracle"), also known as the Miracle on the Rhine, was the rapid reconstruction and development of the economies of Germany and Austria after World War II (adopting an ordoliberalism-based social market economy).

Keith Joseph

British politician, intellectual and barrister.

Joseph in 1964

Keith Joseph was the first to introduce the concept of the social market economy into Britain, an economic and social system inspired by Christian democracy.

Konrad Adenauer

German statesman who served as the first chancellor of West Germany from 1949 to 1963.

Adenauer in 1952
Adenauer in 1896
In Wilhelmshaven in 1928, when a new cruiser was given the name of Köln (Cologne), home city of Adenauer (centre, with left hand visible, next to him Lieutenant-General Wilhelm Groener and Gustav Noske)
Heinrich Hoerle: Zeitgenossen (contemporaries). A 1931 modernist painting with mayor Adenauer (in grey) together with artists and a boxer.
Adenauer in 1951, reading in his house in Rhöndorf he had built in 1937. It is now a museum.
Election poster, 1949: "With Adenauer for peace, freedom and unity of Germany, therefore CDU"
Adenauer speaking in the Bundestag, 1955
Adenauer in 1950 at the Ermekeil barracks in Bonn with Adolf Heusinger (right), one of the authors of the Himmerod memorandum
Adenauer with Israeli President Zalman Shazar, 1966
Man of the Year: Adenauer on the cover of Time (4 January 1954)
Signing the North Atlantic Treaty in Paris, 1954 (Adenauer at the left)
Minister Blank and Adenauer with General Speidel inspect formations of the newly created Bundeswehr on 20 January 1955
Konrad Adenauer with minister of economics Ludwig Erhard, 1956. Adenauer acted more leniently towards the trade unions and employers' associations than Erhard.
Nikita Khrushchev and other Soviet leaders greeting Adenauer in Moscow in September 1955
Adenauer with the mother of a German POW brought home in 1955 from the Soviet Union, due to Adenauer's visit to Moscow
Adenauer with French president Charles de Gaulle at the Cologne Bonn Airport in 1961
Adenauer visiting a refugee kindergarten in Berlin in 1958
Adenauer and Italian Prime Minister Antonio Segni in August 1959
U.S. president John F. Kennedy visiting Adenauer at the Hammerschmidt Villa
Berlin plaque commemorating restoration of relations between Germany and France, showing Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle
Adenauer delivering a speech at the March 1966 CDU party rally, one year before his death
Funeral service for Adenauer in Cologne Cathedral
Adenauer's grave in Rhöndorf
The monument "Homage to the Founding Fathers of Europe" in front of Robert Schuman's house in Scy-Chazelles by Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli, unveiled 20 October 2012. The statues represent the four founders of the European Communities – Alcide De Gasperi, Robert Schuman, Jean Monnet and Konrad Adenauer.

Along with his Minister for Economic Affairs and successor Ludwig Erhard, the West German model of a "social market economy" (a mixed economy with capitalism moderated by elements of social welfare and Catholic social teaching) allowed for the boom period known as the Wirtschaftswunder ('economic miracle') that produced broad prosperity.

Economic liberalism

Political and economic ideology based on strong support for a free market economy based on individual lines and private property in the means of production.

Adam Smith was an early advocate for economic liberalism

A social market economy is a largely free market economy based on a free price system and private property, but it is supportive of government activity to promote competitive markets and social welfare programs to address social inequalities that result from market outcomes.