Few had even heard of the Mont Pelerin Society until the late 1990s and the internet age. The ringmaster of the neoliberal conspiracy still has a very ordinary looking webpage.
Lead conspirator Hayek was so little known at his death in 1992 that finding extensive obituaries of him in newspapers is hard. Some may be behind pay walls. Of those that were found, they weren’t very long and forgot to mention Hayek as the leader of a global cabal that rule the waves :
When Keynesian thought prevailed and his reputation went into eclipse, Mr. Hayek turned to philosophy and psychology, which he first taught at the University of Chicago, where he wrote what many consider to be a second masterpiece, “The Constitution of Liberty “.
Lawrence Hayek escaped from the formidable shadow of his father, the great economist-philosopher, Professor F. A. Hayek, into high-level medical research within the NHS, only to spend much of his final decade responding to the worldwide interest in the scholar many regard — along with Milton Friedman — as the father of Thatcherism.
Hayek, the Mont Pelerin Society’s and neoliberal conspiracy’s alleged linchpin wasn’t even able to get a job in the University of Chicago economics department. Along with Mises, their salaries were paid by a private foundation. Neither could get paid university appointments in the United States. Hayek was Keynes’s principal critic in the 1930s, and upon Keynes’s death in 1946, the most famous economist in the world at that time.
Despite being a colony of the vast neo-liberal conspiracy, mentioning Milton Friedman’s name in the 1980s at job interviews in Canberra would have been extremely career limiting. Not much better in the early 1990s.
- Back in the 1980s, the much less radical Milton Friedman was just graduating from being ‘a wild man in the wings’ to just a suspicious character in policy circles.
- If you name dropped Hayek in the 1980s and 1990s, any sign of name recognition would have indicated that you were been interviewed by educated people.
How times has changed. The reasons are well summarised by Bruce Caldwell:
But how important were [members of the Mont Pèlerin Society] in the emerging global consensus that began in the 1980s in favour of trade liberalization and privatization?
Were not, for example, the dismal performance of Keynesian demand management policies in the United States, Britain, and elsewhere in the 1970s; the heavy-handed actions of the trade unions in Britain during the “Winter of Discontent”; the sclerotic performance of countries like India who had embraced a modified version of the planning model for their own; and, of course, the patent economic and political failures of the East Bloc, far more important in turning the tide, however briefly, towards globalization?
Was not George Stigler (himself a founding member of the Society) right in his comment about economists that “our influence appears to be powerful only when we support policies ripe for adoption” (Stigler 1987, p. 11)?
see Daniel Stedman Jones (2012). Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics and P. Mirowski and D. Plehwe, eds. (2009), The Road from Mont Pelerin: The Making of the Neoliberal Thought Collective for the handbook on the cabal leading the vast right-wing conspiracy. For example,
The Road from Mont Pèlerin presents the key debates and conflicts that occurred among neoliberal scholars and their political and corporate allies regarding trade unions, development economics, antitrust policies, and the influence of philanthropy. The book captures the depth and complexity of the neoliberal “thought collective” while examining the numerous ways that neoliberal discourse has come to shape the global economy.
Masters of the Universe traces the ascendancy of neoliberalism from the academy of interwar Europe to supremacy under Reagan and Thatcher and in the decades since. Daniel Stedman Jones argues that there was nothing inevitable about the victory of free-market politics. Far from being the story of the simple triumph of right-wing ideas, the neoliberal breakthrough was contingent on the economic crises of the 1970s and the acceptance of the need for new policies by the political left.