The Mont Pelerin Society (MPS), has been credited as being one of the key groups that succeeded in moving the world away from socialism and into a more liberal world order. In the move away from socialism, few can be such good witnesses as Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa. He recently became a prominent new member of MPS.
Few organizations can show a history with so many Nobel Laureates. Vargas Llosa, however, is the first from the world of literature. MPS was founded by F.A. Hayek in 1947, who later became a Nobel Laureate in 1974. Other Nobel Laureates in the society included Milton Friedman, Ronald Coase, James Buchanan, and George Stigler. They are deceased, but they left an enormous legacy. Vernon Smith and Gary Becker are still going strong and are active members.
Despite coming from the world of literature, Vargas Llosa is no stranger to the world of economic liberty. In 2002, he founded theFundación Internacional para la Libertad. In 2005, he won theAmerican Enterprise Institute’s Irving Kristol award, and in 2010, he became an Atlas Templeton Fellow. Few can match his track record as keynote speaker for free-market think tanks. In a recent presentation at the Montreal Economic Institute he explained in detail his personal journey away from socialism.
A short history of the society shows how well Vargas Llosa fits in, and emblazons its membership. MPS is not a secret society, it is a private society. Any person can find ample information on the official website, however a few things are private: the member list, the discussions, and the pictures of meetings.
The MPS founders saw that the major threat came from “the spread of creeds which, claiming the privilege of tolerance when in the position of a minority, seek only to establish a position of power in which they can suppress and obliterate all views but their own.” These were generated by “a view of history which denies all absolute moral standards and by the growth of theories which question the desirability of the rule of law.”
The six goals of the society have not changed, nor have their relevance:
1. The analysis and exploration of the nature of the present crisis so as to bring home to others its essential moral and economic origins.
2. The redefinition of the functions of the state so as to distinguish more clearly between the totalitarian and the liberal order.
3. Methods of re-establishing the rule of law and of assuring its development in such manner that individuals and groups are not in a position to encroach upon the freedom of others and private rights are not allowed to become a basis of predatory power.
4. The possibility of establishing minimum standards by means not inimical to initiative and functioning of the market.
5. Methods of combating the misuse of history for the furtherance of creeds hostile to liberty.
6. The problem of the creation of an international order conducive to the safeguarding of peace and liberty and permitting the establishment of harmonious international economic relations.
The permanence of its aims, such as focusing on moral origins, avoiding private rights from becoming a “basis of predatory power,” keeping in mind the true lessons of history, and helping create an international order that assures the peace and liberty most want, all explain part of the great prestige of their meetings. The quality of the papers and speakers, as well as the private setting of the discussions, is also essential. Among free-market groups, the Mont Pelerin Society meetings ranked first in the GoToThinkTank list for “The Best Think Tank Conference.” This despite never promoting or advertising its conferences beyond its members.
F.A. Hayek dedicated his “Road to Serfdom” to “Socialists of all Parties.” Vargas Llosa was one of them. The magic of the well spoken word, coupled with his insights that go deep into the human spirit, helps him attract audiences that fill the largest lecture halls and theaters. His vision of liberalism is respectful of the free market and grounded on personal freedom, it is open to conservatives and libertarians, religious and atheists, and will be a stronger magnet for “freedom lovers of all parties.”
ALEX CHAFUEN | FORBES