What Is the Mont Pelerin Society?

The Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) is a group of classical liberal economists, philosophers, and historians. Although members can be heterogeneous in their analysis of causes and consequences, the Society notes that its members "see 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."

Key Takeaways

  • The Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) is a group of academics, writers, and thought leaders who meet to discuss, debate, and promote the ideas of classical liberalism. 
  • MPS was founded in 1947 by economist Friedrich Hayek and has met on an annual or biennial basis since then. 
  • MPS exists to preserve, develop, and disseminate (through academia and think tanks) the classical liberal ideals of free markets, individual rights, and an open society.

Understanding the Mont Pelerin Society

The Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) was founded in 1947, when Friedrich Hayek invited a group of 36 scholars—mostly economists, though some historians and philosophers were included as well—to discuss the fate of modern liberalism. The group emphasized that it did not intend to create an orthodoxy or align with any political parties. It was intended to act as a forum for like-minded scholars to debate the fate of classical liberalism and to discuss and analyze the workings, virtues, and defects of the market-oriented system in which its proponents believed. It currently meets once every two years.

Its members have included some prominent subscribers of the more liberal, libertarian, and Austrian schools of economic thought; apart from Hayek himself, Milton Friedman and Ludwig von Mises have also been members. The group has had nine Nobel prizewinners (eight in economics, including Hayek and Friedman, and one in literature) among its members.

The Mont Pelerin Society Statement

The original statement of the founders noted concern about the growing "dangers to civilization" that they saw from the increasing power of governments across many parts of the globe. This statement (at the first meeting of the group in 1947) should be seen in context of the post-World War II economic and political landscape, especially the formation of the Eastern Bloc, the domination of Western economies by Depression-era and wartime socialism, and the rise of interventionist economic theories to utter dominance in academia and public policy circles. Hayek had recently written The Road to Serfdom, a book arguing against fascism and socialism. The struggle at that stage was characterized as that between liberalism and totalitarianism, where the former was being shunted aside or actively repressed worldwide as the latter eliminated the rule of law, the rights of the individual, and indeed a free society. 

More recently, the rise of "big government" in the West as well as re-emerging authoritarianism in parts of the world that had previously moved towards democratic, liberal ideas have been of concern. The Society promotes free market economics and ways to replace many functions currently provided by government with free enterprise. Further, the Society advocates in support of freedom of expression and the political values of an open society.

Although the lack of a formal, homogenous grouping (and therefore policy statements) make it difficult to judge what impact the group may or may not have had on policy, the fact that there is considerable overlap between members of the group and academia, think tanks, and other organizations does imply its ideas are indeed being disseminated into the policy debate.