Economic Freedom

Champions of the Free Market

Photograph of members at the first meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society in 1947. From the Mont Pelerin Society Records, Hoover Institution Archives.

Members at the first meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society, 1947. Mont Pelerin Society Records, Hoover Institution Archives

Members at the first meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society, 1947. Mont Pelerin Society Records, Hoover Institution Archives

“The source of economic prosperity is freedom. Man must be free to use his own powers in his own way. Free to think, to speak, to worship. Free to plan his own life. Free to use his own initiative. Free to dare in his own adventure.”

Herbert Hoover, “The Road to Freedom” speech, June 10, 1936

Photograph of Milton Friedman in 1981. from the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace Records, Hoover Institution Archives.

Milton Friedman, 1981. Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace Records, Hoover Institution Archives

Milton Friedman, 1981. Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace Records, Hoover Institution Archives

A vital component of a free society is economic freedom. Herbert Hoover believed that as economic freedom brought prosperity, it would lead to decreased conflict and long-term peace.

Hoover scholars through the decades have continued to advance ideas of economic freedom in their research, scholarship, and policy ideas. Two champions of economic freedom affiliated with the Hoover Institution were economists Friedrich von Hayek (1899–1992) and Milton Friedman (1912–2006).

Both Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman were Nobel laureates in economics. Hayek, who received the prize in 1974, was named a Hoover Institution honorary fellow in 1976. Friedman received the prize in 1976, and became a senior research fellow the following year.

Photograph of Friedrich von Hayek. From the Fritz Machlup Papers, Hoover Institution Archives.

Friedrich von Hayek, n.d. Fritz Machlup Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

Friedrich von Hayek, n.d. Fritz Machlup Papers, Hoover Institution Archives


Photograph of Milton Friedman, circa 1980-1990. From the Milton Friedman Papers, Hoover Institution Archives.

Milton Friedman, circa 1988. Milton Friedman Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

Milton Friedman, circa 1988. Milton Friedman Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

Friedrich von Hayek

Photograph of Friedrich von Hayek addressing the first meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society in 1947. From the Mont Pelerin Society Records, Hoover Institution Archives.

Friedrich von Hayek addressing the first meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society, 1947. Mont Pelerin Society Records, Hoover Institution Archives

Friedrich von Hayek addressing the first meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society, 1947. Mont Pelerin Society Records, Hoover Institution Archives

The Road to Serfdom

The Vienna-born economist Friedrich von Hayek, who fled the Nazi regime and settled in England, won worldwide fame for his 1944 book, The Road to Serfdom, which told of the dangers of socialism and state planning and explained the economic advantages and moral superiority of a free market.

The Road to Serfdom handwritten draft, by Friedrich von Hayek, 1944. Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

The Road to Serfdom Final Proof with Annotations by Friedrich von Hayek from 1944. From the Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, Hoover Institution Archives.

The Road to Serfdom final proof with annotations, by Friedrich von Hayek, 1944. Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

The Road to Serfdom final proof with annotations, by Friedrich von Hayek, 1944. Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

Writing his book in language accessible to the general reader, Hayek warned that once a government starts planning an economy, it runs the risk of becoming a dictatorship. The Road to Serfdom was a worldwide best-seller, especially in the United States after Reader's Digest published a condensed version and Hayek embarked on a speaking tour of the country.

The Road to Serfdom notebook page by Friedrich von Hayek from 1944. From the Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, Hoover Institution Archives.

The Road to Serfdom handwritten draft, by Friedrich von Hayek, 1944. Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

The Road to Serfdom handwritten draft, by Friedrich von Hayek, 1944. Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

Mont Pelerin Society

After World War II, economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek observed that socialism was gaining momentum. In 1947, Hayek organized a conference of classical liberal thinkers at a hotel on Mont Pèlerin near Montreux, Switzerland, above Lake Geneva.

Agenda of the Mont Pelerin Conference from April 1947. From the Mont Pelerin Society Records, Hoover Institution Archives.

Agenda of the Mont Pelerin Conference, April 1947. Mont Pelerin Society Records, Hoover Institution Archives

Agenda of the Mont Pelerin Conference, April 1947. Mont Pelerin Society Records, Hoover Institution Archives

His goal was to facilitate an exchange of ideas to strengthen the principles and practice of a free society and to study market-oriented economic systems. For lack of an agreed-upon name, the group called itself the Mont Pelerin Society.

Memorandum of Association by Friedrich von Hayek, circa 1947. From the Mont Pelerin Society Records, Hoover Institution Archives.

Memorandum of Association, by Friedrich von Hayek, 1947. Mont Pelerin Society Records, Hoover Institution Archives

Memorandum of Association, by Friedrich von Hayek, 1947. Mont Pelerin Society Records, Hoover Institution Archives

At the inaugural meeting, thirty-six scholars from ten countries gathered: among them were twenty professional economists, plus historians, lawyers, political philosophers, and journalists. Over the years, the society has met biannually at locations around the world, including Stanford University Campus in both 1980 and 2020. Hayek served as its president for thirteen years, from 1947 until 1960, and then as honorary president until his death, in 1992.

Letter from Friedrich von Hayek to Future Members of the Mont Pelerin Society from December 21, 1946. From the Mont Pelerin Society Records, Hoover Institution Archives.

Letter from Friedrich von Hayek to future members of the Mont Pelerin Society, December 21, 1946. Mont Pelerin Society Records, Hoover Institution Archives

Letter from Friedrich von Hayek to future members of the Mont Pelerin Society, December 21, 1946. Mont Pelerin Society Records, Hoover Institution Archives


Articles of Incorporation, Mont Pelerin Society from November 6, 1947. From the Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, Hoover Institution Archives.

Articles of Incorporation, Mont Pelerin Society, November 6, 1947. Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

Articles of Incorporation, Mont Pelerin Society, November 6, 1947. Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

Mont Pelerin Conference: The Name of the Society from April 10 1947. From the Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, Hoover Institution Archives.

Mont Pelerin Conference: The Name of the Society, April 10, 1947. Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

Mont Pelerin Conference: The Name of the Society, April 10, 1947. Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

Transcripts from the First Meeting

Transcripts from the first meeting show participants struggling to find a name for the society that would encompass its proposed mission before finally settling on the Mont Pelerin Society—named after the location of the meeting. The spirit of this inaugural meeting would set the tone for all subsequent meetings, and for the society itself.

Mont Pelerin Conference: The Name of the Society, April 10, 1947. Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

Hayek and Thatcher

Friedrich von Hayek’s work greatly impacted economics and politics in the United Kingdom. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was an honorary fellow at the Hoover Institution, considered Hayek a primary influence for her policies and was in frequent communication with him while she served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Letter from Margaret Thatcher to Friedrich von Hayek from February 17, 1982. From the Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, Hoover Institution Archives.

Letter from Margaret Thatcher to Friedrich von Hayek, February 17, 1982. Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

Letter from Margaret Thatcher to Friedrich von Hayek, February 17, 1982. Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, Hoover Institution Archives


Photograph of Margaret Thatcher visiting the Hoover Institution from March 22, 1993. Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace Records, Hoover Institution Archives.

Margaret Thatcher visits the Hoover Institution, March 22, 1993. Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace Records, Hoover Institution Archives

Margaret Thatcher visits the Hoover Institution, March 22, 1993. Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace Records, Hoover Institution Archives


Letter from Margaret Thatcher to Friedrich von Hayek from October 18, 1984. From the Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, Hoover Institution Archives.

Letter from Margaret Thatcher to Friedrich von Hayek, October 18, 1984. Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

Letter from Margaret Thatcher to Friedrich von Hayek, October 18, 1984. Friedrich A. von Hayek Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

Milton Friedman

Photograph of Milton Friedman at the Mont Pelerin Society General Meeting at the Hoover Institution from 1980. From the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace Records, Hoover Institution Archives.

Milton Friedman at the Mont Pelerin Society General Meeting at the Hoover Institution, 1980. Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace Records, Hoover Institution Archives

Milton Friedman at the Mont Pelerin Society General Meeting at the Hoover Institution, 1980. Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace Records, Hoover Institution Archives

Research and Outreach

Milton Friedman brought to the study of economics an extraordinary combination of theoretical depth, unparalleled policy influence, and enormous popularity through his long-running column in Newsweek and a nationally broadcast public television series, Free to Choose, as well as its companion volume, which was the top-selling nonfiction book of 1980.

Friedman championed the virtues of a market economy and free trade and defended the freedom of the individual from government control. Friedman's fundamental message was that economic freedom is as vital as political freedom to a free society.

A Program for Consumption Research, by Milton Friedman, June 11, 1951. Milton Friedman Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

A Program for Consumption Research by Milton Friedman from June 11, 1951. From the Milton Friedman Papers, Hoover Institution Archives.

A Program for Consumption Research, by Milton Friedman, June 11, 1951. Milton Friedman Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

A Program for Consumption Research, by Milton Friedman, June 11, 1951. Milton Friedman Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

Newsweek Column Drafts

Friedman’s Newsweek column ran from 1966 to 1984 and reached a large and diverse audience of readers. Friedman wrote more than three hundred articles for Newsweek on a variety of topics, including the flat-rate income tax, school vouchers, and the privatization of social security. These three drafts from 1966 show how Friedman’s thoughts evolved as he wrote a Newsweek article about legalized minimum wages in the United States.

Legal Minimum Wage Rates article drafts by Milton Friedman from 1966. From the Milton Friedman Papers, Hoover Institution Archives.

Legal Minimum Wage Rates article drafts, by Milton Friedman, 1966. Milton Friedman Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

Legal Minimum Wage Rates article drafts, by Milton Friedman, 1966. Milton Friedman Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

Free to Choose

Milton Friedman was an inaugural member of the Mont Pelerin Society and one of its best known. Enormously popular within the realm of free-market economics research and policy making, Friedman became a household name through his writing and television appearances, which were aimed at reaching the general public. In 1980, Milton and Rose Friedman published Free to Choose, a book with an accompanying ten-part television series about free-market economics.

Free To Choose, 1980. Free to Choose Video Tape Collection, Hoover Institution Archives

Photograph of Free To Choose promotional image, 1980. From the Free to Choose Video Tape Collection, Hoover Institution Archives

Free To Choose, 1980. Free to Choose Video Tape Collection, Hoover Institution Archives

Free To Choose, 1980. Free to Choose Video Tape Collection, Hoover Institution Archives

Photograph of Milton and Rose Friedman with motion picture film from 1980. From the Milton Friedman Papers, Hoover Institution Archives.

Milton and Rose Friedman with motion picture film, 1980. Milton Friedman Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

Milton and Rose Friedman with motion picture film, 1980. Milton Friedman Papers, Hoover Institution Archives


Photograph of Free to Choose television program, circa 1980. From the Milton Friedman Papers, Hoover Institution Archives.

Free to Choose television program, circa 1980. Milton Friedman Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

Free to Choose television program, circa 1980. Milton Friedman Papers, Hoover Institution Archives


How to Cure Inflation poster from 1982. From the Free to Choose Video Tape Collection, Hoover Institution Archives.

How to Cure Inflation, 1982. Free to Choose Video Tape Collection, Hoover Institution Archives

How to Cure Inflation, 1982. Free to Choose Video Tape Collection, Hoover Institution Archives


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