In less than 10 years, the Committee for Monetary Research and Education has become one of the strongest voices in the increasingly insistent calls for a stable currency. The organization was formed by a number of gold advocates at the beginning of the '70s. In 1972 Elizabeth Currier, now the executive vice-president of CMRE, was hired to help with the administration of its activities, which were not extensive at the time. Coming into an organization that had more debts than assets and little public exposure, Currier built it into what is today acknowledged as one of the most influential free-market groups in the country.
Long-time free-market economist Henry Hazlitt, when approached concerning Elizabeth Currier, said, "I'm glad you're doing something on her, because I think she hasn't gotten the notice she deserves for what she's been doing." And what she's been doing, affirms Hazlitt, is "running CMRE pretty much as a one-woman operation. I don't want to detract from Don Kemmerer, the president [now emeritus], but she's actually been the working life of the committee."
The committee's aim is to promote a better understanding of the monetary system, and in particular of a sound monetary system. To this end, it produces and disseminates publications and organizes seminars and conferences at universities across the country, in Washington and New York, and in CMRE's home state, Connecticut.
Unlike nearly a decade ago when CMRE was getting off the ground, people no longer tend to look askance at the idea of somehow restoring the discipline of gold to our ailing money system. No less than three gold-standard bills await action in the Congress. (See "Going for Solid Gold" in the September REASON.)
Much of the groundwork for this shift of opinion can be traced to CMRE—and, through the committee, to Elizabeth Currier. Says Hazlitt: "She has made the committee the source of a terrific lot of the ideas on currency that are now having influence. She always bows out, saying, 'I'm no expert, even on knowing who the experts are,' but she's done a marvelous job. I don't know how she works her miracles, but she gets an awful lot of people to do things for the committee."
In fact, Currier is a "networker" par excellence. If she isn't tracking down a speaker for a White House luncheon, she may be on the trail of the Spanish economist who delivered a paper on the 18th-century English banking system to a group of economists in Madrid. Speakers at CMRE functions have included former Treasury Secretary William Simon, economists ranging from Arthur Laffer to Yale Brozen to Percy Greaves, authors such as Jude Wanniski and Jacques Rueff, and Sen. William Proxmire.
Currier is herself an articulate defender of the free market and speaker on the monetary system. "I love freedom," she says. "I like to express it myself and see the opportunity for other people." A native of Connecticut, she began thinking about philosophic and economic issues in the '60s during the grass-roots conservatism of the Goldwater era. She had previously gained a bachelor of arts in economics, studying under Keynesians, and now attacked the study of the free market with the vigor of a dedicated freshman.
During this time, she recalls, her main form of entertainment was frequenting "dusty old used book stores" searching for then-rare books on the free market and the philosophic foundations of the American Revolution. Currier is still an avid reader of materials that were read by the Founding Fathers. Her interests propelled her naturally into lecturing and into hosting an investment-oriented radio show in Greenwich, Connecticut, which she used as a platform for explaining the free market.
"I don't know too much about her background," admits the admiring Hazlitt. "She's always so modest that she never talks about herself." Truly, Currier was an extremely difficult person to interview for this column. Though friendly, articulate, and sensitive, she is not wont to talking about her own accomplishments.
Hazlitt did not even know that a book of his, The Failure of the New Economics, was indirectly responsible for Currier's job at CMRE. It seems that she was walking with the book under her arm when the late Felix Wormser, one of the founders of CMRE, saw her and, with barely an introduction, launched into a discussion on the gold standard. Later, after appearing several times as a guest on Currier's radio show, he suggested to the committee that they hire her.
CMRE's influence and prestige started on the upswing with her addition to the staff. She began with secretarial tasks but was soon doing much more, until today she serves as executive vice-president. Austen Colgate, the committee's treasurer, marvels at her frugality and financial abilities.
Successful in a field dominated by men, she has maintained a wonderful kind of New England grace. She is always dressed impeccably and is known for her ability "to whip together a quick gourmet luncheon" if the need arises. She is dedicated to her mother and her daughter. She collects antiques from the Napoleonic period and helps maintain the garden on her family estate.
Asked how it feels to be a woman in a male-dominated area, she answers, "Oh, I like it—I think it's great," and points out that the root of the word economics is Greek for home management. She certainly manages much more than her own home.
Elizabeth Currier says she's no woman's libber, because "I don't need laws to get where I'm going." But liberation and freedom come from the same root, and in her own words: "I love freedom! I guess it's just part of me."
Patrick Cox is a free-lance writer.