Mont Pelerin Society
Mont Pelerin Society
Directly after World War II (1939–1945), a group of thirty-six scholars—mostly economists, with some historians and philosophers as well—were invited by the economist Friedrich von Hayek to Mont Pelerin, a Swiss Mountain resort, to discuss the state of classical liberalism. They feared that Western society was in danger and liberty was being threatened by totalitarianism and other forces. After ten days of deliberations, the Mont Pelerin Society was founded on April 10, 1947.
Hayek’s hope in founding the Society was to create “an international academy of political philosophy” with the aim of “regenerating the ideas of classical liberalism in order to refute socialism” (Hartwell 1995). His aim was educational, and he hoped to influence political structures through ideas, not through direct political involvement. Because of this, the organization does not form or align itself with any political party or parties, nor does it conduct propaganda. Instead, the Mont Pelerin Society is a forum for free discussion aiming “not to spread a given doctrine, but to work out in continuous effort, a philosophy of freedom” (Hartwell 1995).
The Mont Pelerin Society is decentralized. It has no office, no paid staff, nor any central organization other than a Web site. All discourse and discussion of ideas occurs through meetings, which are organized, funded, and run by local ad-hoc committees. Since 1947 the Society has held thirty-three General Meetings, twenty-seven Regional Meetings, and a number of Special Meetings. These have occurred in Europe, Central and South America, the United States, Asia, Australia, and Africa. Because of its decentralization, and because it does not act as one body, the Society’s influence is difficult to quantify.
The Society is composed of persons who see dangers in the expansion of government, not least when it leads to the welfare state, in the power of trade unions and business monopolies, and in the continuing threat and reality of inflation. Membership is exclusive and anyone seeking to join must be nominated by current members. Current and past members include eight Nobel Prize winners in economics, various heads of state and other high-ranking government officials, business leaders, and established scholars. The membership of the Society has risen from under 50 members in 1947 to over 550 members in 2007, representing more than fifty countries. Some of the most well-known current and former members include Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman, George Stigler, Ronald Coase, Karl Popper, Ralph Harris, Vernon Smith, Gary Becker, Vaclav Klaus, and Mart Laar.
SEE ALSO Austrian Economics; Freedom; Friedman, Milton; Hayek, Friedrich August von; Liberty; Smith, Vernon L.; Welfare State
Freedom House. 2006. Freedom in the World 2006. http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=15.
Hartwell, R. M. 1995. A History of the Mont Pelerin Society. Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund.
Mont Pelerin Society Website. http://www.montpelerin.org/.