The New International Encyclopædia/Rodbertus, Johann Karl
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Rodbertus, Johann Karl
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RODBERTUS, rṓd-bĕr'tụs, Johann Karl (1805-75). A German economist, founder of the scientific or conservative school of socialism. He was born August 12, 1805, in Greifswald, where his father was a professor of Roman law. He studied law at Göttingen and Berlin, and served from 1827 to 1832 in the Prussian justiciary. By 1837 he had formulated his social platform, and in that year published Die Forderungen der arbeitenden Klassen. Elected to the National Assembly in 1848, he was Minister of Education in the Auerswald-Hansemann Ministry for a fortnight, and in 1849 was a leader of the Left Centre. The last twenty years of his life were spent in retirement. Socialism, as defined by Rodbertus, was to be a gradual evolution, hence his acquiescence in a monarchy, and his break with the Democrats as a political party. He regarded the social question as a purely economic one. His principal doctrines are these: The workman's share of the nation's industrial income tends constantly to decline; land rent and interest are the result of the exploitation of the working classes; the present shares in the distribution of wealth — rent, profits, interest, and wages — are not entirely the result of permanent, universal economic forces, but the result of historical evolution and the prevailing legal system; financial and commercial crises are due to a non-adjustment of production and consumption; the laborer's purchasing power is small and the capitalist and landlord classes, instead of increasing their consumption of luxuries, invest their savings in new factories, and in otherwise increasing the means of production, with the inevitable result that commodities of common consumption are produced in excess — the great cause of crises. Rodbertus died in 1875. His works include: Zur Erkenntnis unserer staatswirthschaftlichen Zustände (1842); Soziale Briefe, addressed to Julius von Kirchmann (1850-51); Der Normalarbeitstag (1871); and Beleuchtung der socialen Frage (1875). His statement of his theory of crises, contained in his Soziale Briefe, has appeared in an English translation under the title of Overproduction and Crises (New York, 1898). Consult the sketch in Stegmann and Hugo, Handbuch des Sozialismus (1897); Jantsch, Rodbertus (Stuttgart, 1899).