by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Whenever classical liberals feel despondent about the present moment, they ought to remember the circumstances surrounding the creation of the Mont Pelerin Society, which helped give birth to the contemporary version of their intellectual movement. When in 1947 Friedrich Hayek invited three dozen scholars to a hotel in Switzerland near Mont Pèlerin to discuss the future of liberalism, a large part of Europe was under Soviet domination and America’s commitment to the security of Western Europe was far from certain. Meanwhile, the drafting of the Marshall Plan was still months away, and it was very much an open question whether liberal democracy would take root in Germany after the experience of Nazism.
There are two lessons from the early days of the movement. First, a sense of perspective and proportion is necessary to evaluate the threats the free world faces at the present. Second, questions of the international economic order and geopolitics ought to be at the heart of classical liberals’ efforts to preserve and strengthen the foundations of a free society.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to sweeping predictions of deglobalization and an end to the neoliberal consensus of the past decades. …
… [T]his is not a time to despair. Most of us want to go back to the 21st century world with all its amenities as soon as the virus abates. Notwithstanding the calls to rethink our way of life, few desire to remain trapped in the present dystopia, where one’s ability to travel or do business across borders is dramatically restricted. The experience of the Great Depression is also a reminder that the recovery from the extraordinary economic shock of the pandemic will be slower if crude protectionism makes a comeback. …
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