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by Neville Kennard, veteran preaching and practising capitalist

The Mont Pelerin Society is the creation of Professor Friedrich von Hayek, the famed Classical Liberal Economist and Philosopher. In 1946 he gathered some other Classical Liberal types together at the Swiss Resort of Mont Pelerin to look at the perilous state of economic and popular thinking at the time. Not only were communism and other authoritarian ideas for governing countries in vogue, but the interventionist Keynesian economic policies were holding sway.

The MPS has survived and prospered in the ensuing 64 years, representing the peak body in Classical Liberal ideas, people and Think Tanks to explore and propagate ideas for limited government, free market economics and Classical Liberal philosophies.

This year it was time for Sydney to play host to the prestigious Annual MPS General Meeting. Some 300 people gathered for informed and scholarly discussion on matters that afflict our country and our world.

Where the MPS and the Classical Liberals go wrong, in my view, is that they like governments, they like The State. They think it is too big, too intrusive, spends too much, taxes too much … but generally they like the construct and the idea of an over-arching authority, subject to constitutional and democratic constraints, of The State.

The MPS is part of the Free Market Think Tank Industry, a multi million dollar network of institutions all over the world now doing work to educate and influence. Their message generally is Utilitarian as opposed to Ethical or Moral. They set out to demonstrate What Works as distinct from What is Ethical and Moral.

The message put out by the Think Tanks and the Classical Liberal Establishment has gained wide currency over the last thirty or so years, and is widely accepted — except in governments where taxes, spending, regulation, bureaucracies continue to grow. The Global Financial Crisis could have been the Tipping Point for the Think Tanks to see their ideas, of small government, deregulation, low taxes, put into practice. But it did not happen! Instead the opposite has happened.

Long discredited Keynesian ideas re-emerged, “stimulus spending” gained sway, new regulation got piled on old regulation, and much of the world has fallen into a long a severe recession.

So how could this be? How could so much good, sound economic theory, so well expounded by such good people and scholars and so widely disseminated and praised be ignored? What went wrong?

Well I have a view on this. Two views actually. The first is that the problem lies in the very nature of the Nation State, and its propensity to grow and intrude and tax and spend. The Nation State, and its servant, Government, by their very nature, are evil. People in Government are mostly not good people. Politicians are often not employable in the real world of business and professions. Bureaucrats too are more concerned with control, with their own security, with building their fiefdoms, than with the freedom and prosperity of their citizens.

And the Free Market Think Tanks like to associate with these Politicians and Bureaucrats. It gives them and their supporters a sense of being part of The Ruling Class. Big Business, Government, and Think Tanks are now a cosy club. Thus the Think Tanks and the Mont Pelerin Society propound utilitarian (rather than principled) ideas and ways for economic prosperity. Left out most of the time is the very idea of Self Ownership, of a person’s right to own his life and the products of his life.

The Think Tanks, now part of The Establishment, find themselves in the Fund-Raising Business, and because they have a message that appeals to business people, the funds roll in. They are well funded with excellent people doing good work, and yet they have been ineffective despite this work being going on for thirty or more years now.

Mont Pelerin and the Free Market Think Tanks mostly avoid arguments for the fundamental right of people to have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and property. They are too frequently unprincipled, avoiding issues of a moral and ethical nature.

In short the Mont Pelerin Society looks backwards to some hypothetical era of a golden age of Classical Liberalism; they seek now a Twenty First Century Classical Liberal Enlightenment (the theme of the conference). The MPS seldom addresses issues of the very nature of the Nation State, of the Nature of Government and their propensity to violate the rights of their citizens.

Not discussed at MPS was Minarchism v. Anarchism, of how actually to limit the size and growth of government, of the right of people to Secede, of the Impossibility of Constitutional Constraint, of the threat to Capitalism posed by Democracy, of the Myth of the Rule of Law, etc.

There are principled and ethical Think Tanks around and the best in my view is the Property and Freedom Society — small but punchy, politically incorrect and propounding ethical ideas of individual liberty. And the very best educational institution is the Ludwig von Mises Institute, which clearly and unapologetically publishes the works of Mises and his successors of the Austrian Economics School.

At MPS Conferences delegates’ sights would be taken away from their rear view mirror with a healthy dose of anarcho-capitalism that challenges the comfort of the Think Tankers and their wishful-thinking on the notion of small government.

But that may be too much to ask of a bunch of well-funded members of the Think Tank Industry who enjoy travelling around the world to MPS Conferences in exotic places and expensive hotels to associate with each other in a self-congratulatory way.

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Welcome from Neville Kennard
  2. Think Tanks Don't Work
  3. "Market Failure": Just what the government ordered!
  4. The Tragedy of the Tax Pool Commons
  5. Corporate Welfare
  6. Citizenship for Sale?
  7. I Don't Vote
  8. Voting: Right or Privilege?
  9. Stockholm Syndrome and our Love-Hate Relationship with Government
  10. Civil Disobedience: The Rules of Engagement
  11. Should Respect for Law Extend to Bad Laws?
  12. Jaywalking as a Demonstration of Individuality
  13. Government Likes War
  14. Collusion is Our Right
  15. Why Not the Drug Olympics?
  16. Unconventional Wisdom
  17. Tiger Farming: An Alternative to Extinction
  18. Looking Backwards: Mont Pelerin Society Conference, Sydney, 2010
  19. Tax Avoidance is a Patriotic Duty
  20. Kennard Writes to IPA Review Editor
  21. Genocide by Welfare: A Tragedy from the Aboriginal Welfare Industry
  22. Separating Sport and State
  23. Your Home is Not an Investment
  24. Dick Smith, Celebrity Philanthropist
  25. A Libertarian's New Year's Resolution
  26. Extend Politicians' Holidays to Create Prosperity
  27. Entrepreneurs are Disruptive, and Bureaucrats Hate It
  28. What is a good Australian?
  29. Governments Like Employment But Hate Employers
  30. The Market Failure Industry
  31. Neville Kennard: The Tax Avoidance Imperative
  32. Wot if ...?
  33. The Tribal Chief and the Witch Doctor
  34. The Tannehills
  35. Democracy versus Property Rights and Prosperity
  36. Government Doesn't Work, and That's the Way They Like It
  37. Minarchy vs Anarchy
  38. Euthanasia and Self-Ownership
  39. The Right Policies to Fix a Depression
  40. Is Howard Our Best PM?
  41. Tax Producers vs Tax Consumers
  42. Where There's a Queue, There's a Business Opportunity
  43. Authoritarian Freedom
  44. Why Classical Liberals Should Debate Anarchocapitalists
  45. The Tyranny of the Majority
  46. If you could choose to whom you paid your tax
  47. Business Should Exploit Boat People
  48. The Immorality of Trade Unions
  49. "America" vs "The United States"
  50. Sweet Anarchy
  51. The Illusion of "Job Creation"
  52. Gold Is Money
  53. Guilty Capitalists
  54. Bureauphobia
  55. Prosperity vs Growth
  56. Capitalism vs Democracy
  57. More people = More fun
  58. Self-Ownership - the very idea!
  59. Government will murder Neville Kennard if he doesn't back away
  60. The Australian Dollar Has Been Cowardly and Criminally Devalued, Harming the Poor Particularly
  61. Is Taxation Theft and Government a Tax Cheat?
  62. My Journey to Anarchy:
    From political and economic agnostic to anarchocapitalist
  63. Government Needs Bad Guys –
    that's why they like wars
  64. What Is Obscene?
  65. Traffic Economics
  66. Wayne Swan stands on the shoulders of other intellectual pygmies
  67. Neville Kennard Obituary
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