5 Dec 2013

A New Statement of Aims

Recently Andrew Simms wrote in the Guardian concerning the origins of so-called Neoliberalism in 1947 at a meeting in Mont-Pèlerin, Siwtzerland where:
"Philosophers, academics and historians gathered at the Hotel du Lac to discuss how to halt the spread of ideas that emphasised common purpose and governments acting directly in the public interest."
Or in their words, after World War II "many of the values of Western civilization were imperiled [sic]." What were those values? The Society "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." Thus their concerns are more libertarian than liberal. The attitude is very similar to that expressed by Lewis Powell in his Memo entitled "Attack on American Free Enterprise System", though clearly Powell has gone much further down the road of tactics.

The Mont-Pèlerin Society is still meeting regularly. Simms did the interesting exercise of taking the original statement of aims from that meeting and tweaking it to suit the current situation. There are also a few little notes in square brackets.

Statement of Aims

The central values of civilisation are in danger. Over large stretches of the earth's surface the essential conditions for human prosperity, dignity, justice, and the free expression of dissent without intimidation have already disappeared.

In others they are under constant menace from the development of current tendencies of policy. State intrusion into our private lives marches alongside the punishment of those in poverty due to an economic crisis they did not create, and energy policies guaranteed to ensure climatic upheaval.

The position of the individual, community and campaign group is incrementally undermined by extensions of arbitrary power. Even those most precious possessions of enlightened society—the celebration of difference, freedom to expose corruption and hold elites accountable—are threatened by the spread of creeds which, claiming the defence of freedom when representing a privileged minority, seek only to establish a position of power in which they can suppress and obliterate all views but their own.

The market, whose diffused power was meant to guarantee against such abuse, has instead undermined democracy, allowing a previously unimagined concentration of control.
We hold that these developments have been fostered by a rejection of history, empathy and curiosity about consequences that substitutes self-interest for common morality, and by the growth of theories which question the necessity of preserving convivial conditions for life on earth.

We hold further they have been fostered by a decline of belief in public purpose and cooperative exchange; for without the deep resilience, openness and ambition associated with these projects it is difficult to imagine a society in which we may be free, survive and thrive.

Believing that what is essentially an ideological movement must be met by reality, argument and the reassertion of valid ideals, the group, having made a preliminary exploration of the ground, is of the opinion that further study is desirable inter alia in regard to the following matters:

1. The analysis and exploration of the nature of the present crisis so as to bring home to others its essential physical, moral and economic origins. [nb: one word added, 'physical' to include the real world]

2. The redefinition of the functions of the market so as to distinguish more clearly between the totalitarian and the liberal order. [A single word changed, guess which?]

3. Methods of re-establishing the role of society and of assuring its development in such manner that the market and other forms of centralised, unaccountable power are not in a position to threaten the environment in which civilisation evolved and the bonds which hold it together.

4. The possibility of establishing optimal standards by means not inimical to initiative, creativity, community and healthy functioning of ecosystems.

5. Methods of combating the misuse of history for the furtherance of creeds hostile to freedom or in the service of predatory power.

6. The problem of the creation of an international order conducive to the safeguarding of life, peace and liberty and permitting the establishment of harmonious international economic relations.

The group does not aspire to conduct propaganda. It seeks to establish no meticulous and hampering orthodoxy. It aligns itself with no particular party. Its object is solely, by facilitating the exchange of views among minds inspired by certain ideals and broad conceptions held in common, to contribute to the preservation and improvement of the conditions for life and the open society.

At the very least it's thought provoking.

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Keep is seemly & on-topic. Thanks.