The Mont Pelerin Society

The Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) is an international organisation, consisting of "free-market" economists, business leaders and journalists with a declared objective of "reaffirming and preserving private property rights, a moral code for both public and private activity, intellectual freedom, state behaviour limited by the rule of law, and ‘the right of each individual to plan his own life’."

MPS's website warns of "danger in the expansion of government, not least in state welfare, in the power of trade unions and business monopoly, and in the continuing threat and reality of inflation."

MPS has close ties to the network of think tanks sponsored in part by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.

In 1947, 39 scholars, mostly economists, with some historians and philosophers, were invited by Professor Friedrich Hayek to meet at Mont Pelerin, Switzerland, and discuss the state, and possible fate of classical liberalism and to combat the “state ascendancy and Marxist or Keynesian planning [that was] sweeping the globe”.

Invitees included Henry Simons (who would later train Milton Friedman, a future president of the society, at the University of Chicago); the American former-Fabian socialist Walter Lippmann; Viennese Aristotelian Society leader Karl Popper; fellow Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises; Sir John Clapham, a senior official of the Bank of England who from 1940–6 was the president of the British Royal Society; Otto von Habsburg, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne; and Max von Thurn und Taxis, Bavaria-based head of the 400-year-old Venetian Thurn und Taxis family.

Originally, it was to be named the Acton-Tocqueville Society. After Frank Knight protested against naming the group after two “Roman Catholic aristocrats” and Ludwig von Mises expressed concern that the mistakes made by Acton and Tocqueville would be connected with the society, the name of the Swiss resort where it convened was used instead.

The Society is named after the hotel near Montreux, Switzerland, where the first meeting was convened in 1947 by F. A. Hayek, to combat the “state ascendancy and Marxist or Keynesian planning [that was] sweeping the globe”. Since then, 32 General and 27 Regional Meetings have been held and its membership has risen from under 50 to over 500.

MPS founder F. A. Hayek stressed that the society was to be a scholarly community arguing ideas against collectivism while not engaging in public relations or propaganda. However, the society has always been a focal point for the international free market think-tank movement: Hayek himself used it as a forum to encourage members such as Antony Fisher to pursue the think-tank route in favour of politics.

Fisher went on the establish the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in London during 1971, the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. during 1973, and the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in 1981. In turn the Atlas Foundation supports a wide network of think-tanks, including the Fraser Institute and the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. All these organisations continue to share close ties with the MPS.

Eight MPS members, including F. A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, and George Stigler, won Nobel prizes in economics.

Of 76 economic advisers on Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign staff, 22 were MPS members, including Anderson himself.

The Society has continued to meet on a regular basis, usually in September. The current president of the Society is Greg Lindsay. Secretary is Carl-Johan Westholm formerly CEO of "Svensk Handel"

"When the Mont Pelerin Society first met, in 1947, its political project did not have a name. But it knew where it was going. The society's founder, Friedrich von Hayek, remarked that the battle for ideas would take at least a generation to win, but he knew that his intellectual army would attract powerful backers. Its philosophy, which later came to be known as neoliberalism, accorded with the interests of the ultra-rich, so the ultra-rich would pay for it."


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