Mont Pelerin Society
The Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) is an international organization composed of economists (including eight winners of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences), philosophers, historians, intellectuals, business leaders, and others committed to their understanding of personal and political freedom.
- I was invited to become a member of the Mt. Pelerin Society in 1957, and I vividly recall my first participation in a general meeting, at the Suvretta House in St. Moritz, the most luxurious hotel I had ever seen. I recall the feet cushions in the lobby and the Spanish princess who got so many of us a bit excited by her mere presence. (No connection with the society.) I do not know who nominated me for membership, perhaps it was Frank Knight, but I do know that everyone acknowledged that the society was really Hayek's and that any new member must have been approved by Hayek himself. By 1957, the membership had grown somewhat from its small beginnings a decade earlier, but there was still a club-like aspect to the meeting and with an underlying tension between the central European and American members (the latter mostly with Chicago connections). To those of us who had libertarian-populist blood in our veins, there was too much deference accorded to Hayek, and especially to Ludwig von Mises, who seemed to demand sycophancy.
- James M. Buchanan, "I did not call him “Fritz”: Personal recollections of Professor F. A. v. Hayek." Constitutional Political Economy 3.2 (1992)
- The group’s members depicted themselves as ‘liberals’ (in the traditional European sense) because of their fundamental commitment to ideals of personal freedom. The neoliberal label signalled their adherence to those free market principles of neoclassical economics that had emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century [...] to displace the classical theories of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and, of course, Karl Marx. Yet they also held to Adam Smith’s view that the hidden hand of the market was the best device for mobilizing even the basest of human instincts such as gluttony, greed, and the desire for wealth and power for the benefit of all. Neoliberal doctrine was therefore deeply opposed to state interventionist theories, such as those of John Maynard Keynes, which rose to prominence in the 1930s in response to the Great Depression. Many policy-makers after the Second World War looked to Keynesian theory to guide them as they sought to keep the business cycle and recessions under control. The neoliberals were even more fiercely opposed to theories of centralized state planning, such as those advanced by Oscar Lange working close to the Marxist tradition. State decisions, they argued, were bound to be politically biased depending upon the strength of the interest groups involved [...]. State decisions on matters of investment and capital accumulation were bound to be wrong because the information available to the state could not rival that contained in market signals.
- David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2005), 1. Freedom’s Just Another Word ...
- In some way, the founding and the first conference of the Mont Pèlerin Society, which, I feel entitled to say, was my own idea, although I received a great deal of support in its organisation especially front Röpke as well as from Mises, constituted the rebirth of a liberal movement in Europe. Americans have done me the honour of considering the publication of The Road to Serfdom as the decisive date, but it is my conviction that the really serious endeavour among intellectuals to bring about the rehabilitation of the idea of personal freedom especially in the economic realm dates from the founding of the Mont Pèlerin Society in 1947.
- Friedrich Hayek, "The Rediscovery of Freedom: Personal Recollections" (1983), published in The Fortunes of Liberalism (1992)
- So far as I know, the MPS never produced and distributed an agreed public statement of its program. Outside the economics profession, it was invisible.
The MPS was no more influential inside the economics profession. There were no publications to be discussed. The American membership was apparently limited to economists of the Chicago School and its scattered university outposts, plus a few transplanted Europeans. “Some of my best friends” belonged. There was, of course, continuing research and debate among economists on the good and bad properties of competitive and noncompetitive markets, and the capacities and limitations of corrective regulation. But these would have gone on in the same way had the MPS not existed. It has to be remembered that academic economists were never optimistic about central planning. Even discussion about the economics of some conceivable socialism usually took the form of devising institutions and rules of behavior that would make a socialist economy function like a competitive market economy (perhaps more like one than any real-world market economy does). Maybe the main function of the MPS was to maintain the morale of the free-market fellowship.
- Robert Solow, "Hayek, Friedman, and the Illusions of Conservative Economics", New Republic (6 December 2012)