Sir Antony Fisher, British philanthropist, launched an international network of independent, public policy think tanks to disseminate and popularize the ideas of liberty—the rule of law, free markets, property rights, individual responsibility, and limited government.

Born in London, Fisher served as a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force during World War II. After the war, his odyssey in the world of ideas developed upon reading the condensed version of The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek. It crystallized Fisher’s fears that the very freedoms he sought to protect in the war were increasingly at risk from growing support for collectivism. Fisher visited Hayek and shared his plans to enter politics. Instead, Hayek challenged him to find a way to change the long‐​term climate of opinion.

Exactly 10 years later, in 1955, Fisher responded to Hayek’s challenge by creating an independent research organization to produce publications and seminars and otherwise engage opinion leaders in the ideas of free and open markets. He approached economists Ralph Harris and Arthur Seldon and together they launched the Institute of Economic Affairs in London.

Twenty years later, Fisher helped establish or advise several other think tanks in their early years, all of which remain highly influential today, including the Adam Smith Institute (London), Centre for Independent Studies (Australia), Fraser Institute (Canada), Manhattan Institute (New York), and the Pacific Research Institute (California). In 1981, Fisher founded the Atlas Economic Research Foundation to institutionalize the process of assisting, developing, and supporting free‐​market public policy institutes At present, Atlas continues in the tradition of its founder, working with a network of approximately 200 institutes around the globe.

Further Readings

Cockett, Richard. Thinking the Unthinkable: Think‐​Tanks and the Economic Counter‐​Revolution, 1931–1983. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.

Frost, Gerald. Antony Fisher, Champion of Liberty. London: Profile Books, 2002.

Originally published