The 1947 Mont Pèlerin Society meeting [in Switzerland] was enough to satisfy Mises's curiosity about Europe and European scholars for quite some time. Europe lay in shambles, even Paris was in rags. He did not even wish to think about traveling to Austria. All that was good and memorable about Europe was in the past. No need for him to return to the old continent just to witness the misery induced by those very statist follies he had spent a lifetime fighting. When he was invited to the next Mont Pèlerin Society meeting, scheduled for July 1949 in the Swiss town of Seelisberg, he declined.1
But his American friends at the Volker Fund thought it was crucial to have him on board, lest the interventionists have a free hand. The Mont Pèlerin Society provided American libertarians not only with some cosmopolitan flair, but it also put them in touch with a mass of intellectuals close to their cause that could not be found at home.
Moreover, in one of the great ironies of history, liberal principles had just been applied with overwhelming success in Germany, and a thorough acquaintance with Ludwig Erhard and the intellectual leaders of the German reforms promised to be helpful for American libertarians in their struggles at home. Nobody in the States knew the reformers, and curiosity was great. Prompted by the news from Germany, Leonard Read asked Mises about Erhard. The reply:
The only fact I know about Professor Erhard is that he is the chairman of the Economic Advisory Board. This council is moderately interventionist and opposes the radical New Dealism of the German political parties and of the outright socialist British Military Government. It is possible that the Board's firmness in this matter is an achievement of Erhard's uncompromising attitude and the persuasiveness of his exposition of the principles of—true liberalism.2
The only way to find out, however, was to go to Europe and meet the man and his supporters. But from...