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Chancellor Helmut Kohl Celebrates the Success of the Social Market Economy (October 25, 1989)

Chancellor Helmut Kohl delivered this speech on the 40th anniversary of the introduction of the Social Market Economy. He attributed the system’s historic successes to its combination of competition and solidarity. He defended the economic policies of his own administration and called for further reforms in order to return to the basic principles of the Social Market Economy.

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Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl: Forty Years of Social Market Economy in the Federal Republic of Germany


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Ladies and gentlemen, the last forty years have shown that our free and socially-responsible economic order is able to take on and meet new challenges like no other. This is because the Social Market Economy is an open and future-oriented economic system in which people have the freedom to develop and thrive.

For Ludwig Erhard, the idea of the Social Market Economy was not a static concept. He regarded it as a task that could never be fully completed. He left us this as a legacy, as a mandate, as a perpetual challenge.


In view of the success of the Social Market Economy, we’ve almost forgotten today how difficult it was forty years ago for Ludwig Erhard to promote his ideas in our country and then to implement them too. At the time, the decision in favor of economic and monetary reform was hotly contested. Therefore, it should be emphasized today: Erhard’s great political achievement was not allowing himself to be dissuaded from his path, despite all of the hostility and challenges he faced. With great courage and confidence, he implemented the decision for the Social Market Economy against the prevailing zeitgeist.

Ludwig Erhard’s path proved to be the correct one. For what happened in the 1950s and 1960s was the economic rise of the Federal Republic of Germany; it caught the attention of the world and came to be known as the “German economic miracle.” It was a rise from misery and destruction to a place among the world’s leading national economies.

What was described as an “economic miracle” was in fact no miracle at all. It was brought about, on the one hand, through wise assistance, especially from the United States, and on the other, through correct fundamental political decisions, and – certainly most importantly – through the will of our people, despite our devastated country, to say “yes” to the future.

Today, I wish for the same optimism in life, for the faith in our own strength that brought about the so-called economic miracle back then. Because our country is worthy of love. It is a country worth standing up for. And therefore we need to find our way back to this underlying mood of optimism.

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