Monday, August 14, 2006

Gottfried Dietze, RIP

Gottfried Dietze (1920-7/10/2006), classical liberal historian, died recently in Washington, D.C. He devoted his life to his teaching at Johns Hopkins, and his scholarship on the nature of liberty, the rule of law, and government.

Dietze was a Wehrmacht soldier and friend of Otto Skorzeny, with a recorded 5 wins in air-to-air combat during WWII. A student and friend of Carl Schmitt who had studied with him at Berlin, Dietze would also study at Goettingen and Hamburg, and with Max Weber's brother in Heidelberg where he received his Dr. Jur. in 1949 under Walter Jellinek, professor of constitutional law. Following the end of his studies in Germany, he traveled to America to complete his education; his hatred of Hitler and the effects of national socialism would become a character of his personality. After a scholarship enabled him to enroll in the PhD program at Harvard, he left after a year for Princeton University, where he earned his Ph.D. with a thesis on "free government", later published as his influential work, The Federalist.

Author of the The Federalist and In Defense of Property, as well as many other acclaimed works (see below), he was a proponent of the rule of law, although his sense of law was more an emphasis of just law or natural law. He was a personal friend of F.A. Hayek, Felix Morley, the current Pope (when he was a professor), and one of the first members of the Mount Pelerin Society.

By 1954, Dietze joined the John Hopkins University in Baltimore and Washington (he marked his 50th anniversary there two years ago) where he had been Director of the Political Science Department and taught comparative government. It had been reported that Dietze was in peparation of a work, Germany Turning, with the support of the Earhart Foundation.I do not know the status of this work.

My greatest personal debt to Dietze is for his studies in property theory, which strongly influenced me in the late 1960's. His In Defense of Property was available through the Intercollegiate Studies Institute then, and greatly aided me in the process of understanding liberty. In his research on the Protestant tradition within general property theory in In Defense of Property (p. 18. See Calvin's Institutes, Book II, 8, 45-46; and Book IV,20, 3, 8, 13, 20, 24.), he pointed out that

"Luther’s support of private property was matched by John Calvin. Calvin was so emphatic about the value of property that he was said to have enthroned the doctrine of the divine right of property. He realized that common ownership is utopian and denounced the Anabaptists’ plan to abolish property and inequality. God, the supreme legislator, by decreeing ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ ordained the protection of property. What each individual possesses has not fallen to him by chance, but by the distribution of the Sovereign Lord of all. Criticizing idleness as sinful, Calvin felt that God ordained the possession of property as a reward for labor. Property gives man incentive and provides the basis of human progress. It can and should be used to acquire more property. It gives a man a vocation, enables him to provide for his family, and to help others. It is necessary for the peace of society. In view of its extensive blessings, Calvin urged that the institution of property be maintained and that counsel and aid be loaned to those who want to retain their belongings. The state should see to it that every person may enjoy his property without molestation. The prince who squanders the property of his subjects is a tyrant."
Indeed, as he notes (p. 20. quoting from Six Bookes of the Commonweale), Jean Bodin wrote in 1606 that
"property is such a fundamental institution that the degree of civilization can be measured by the severity of punishment for infringements upon property, such as theft. A prince, no matter how great his authority...could not justify infringements upon private property. The claim that the king exercises dominium over all things within his imperium is based upon a misinterpretation of Roman law, for "every subject hath the true proprietie of his own things, and may therefore dispose at his pleasure." The king, no matter how great his temporal powers may be, is still bound by the law of nature and the laws of the realm, and cannot arbitrarily infringe upon property rights."
and that William Blackstone (p. 27. from his Commentaries, 12th ed. 1794) explained that property could be expanded by law, but not restricted:
"The English government, whenever regulating private property, was bound by natural law. English law itself was part of the law of nature. The latter was coeval with mankind, and dictated by God himself,...binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times. No human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid derive all their force, and all their authority, mediately or immediately, from this original."
Gottfried Dietze was one of the pioneers of the modern libertarian movement as well as a great classical liberal thinker.

The following is a list of Gottfried Dietze's published books:

  • Über die Formulierung der Menschrechte, 1956.
  • Natural law in the modern European constitutions, 1956.
  • Judicial review in Europe, 1957.
  • The Federal Republic of Germany; an evaluation after ten years, 1958.
  • America and Europe--decline and emergence of judicial review, 1958.
  • The Federalist, 1960.
  • In Defense of Property, 1963 (in Spanish, 1988).
  • Essays on the American Constitution a Commemorative Volume in Honor of Alpheus T. Mason (editor), 1964.
  • Magna Carta and Property, 1965.
  • America's Political Dilemma: From Limited to Unlimited Democracy, 1968.
  • Youth, University and Democracy, 1970 (in Spanish, 1972).
  • Bedeutungswandel der Menschenrechte, 1972.
  • Two Concepts of the Rule of Law, 1973.
  • Freiheit und Eigentum in der amerikanischen Überlieferung, 1976
  • Champions of Freedom, 1976 (co-editor)
  • Zur Verteidigung des Eigentums, 1978.
  • Herder: ein Lesebuch für unsere Zeit, 1978.
  • Deutschland, wo bist Du? : suchende Gedanken aus Washington, 1980.
  • Kant und der Rechtsstaat, 1982.
  • Liberalism Proper and Proper Liberalism, 1984.
  • Reiner Liberalismus, 1985.
  • Konservativer Liberalismus in Amerika, 1987.
  • Liberaler Kommentar zur amerikanischen Verfassung, 1988.
  • Amerikanische Demokratie: Wesen des praktischen Liberalismus, 1988.
  • Politik, Wissenschaft, 1989.
  • Der Hitler-Komplex, 1990.
  • Liberale Demokratie, 1992.
  • American Democracy: Aspects of Practical Liberalism, 1993.
  • Problematik der Menschenrechte, 1995.
  • Briefe aus Amerika: Befreiende Essays zur deutschen Lage, 1995.
  • Begriff des Rechts, 1997.
  • Deutschland, 1999
  • Amerikas Schuldgefühl, 2005

Hat tip to Riccardo Pelizzo.
Just a thought.
Just Ken
CLASSical LiberalismSpencer Heath


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