Antony Fisher

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Antony Fisher (1915 - 1988) was one of the most influential background players in the global rise of libertarian think-tanks during the second half of the twentieth century, founding the Institute for Economic Affairs and the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. Through Atlas, he helped establish up to 150 other think-tanks worldwide. The most promininent include:

His daughter is Linda Whetstone. His son is Mike Fisher.


Eton-educated Fisher had always been a strong critic of "statism". In 1945, he read F. A. Hayek's Road to Serfdom which profoundly influenced him. He sought out Hayek that year in London and talked enthusiatically about politics. Hayek, however, convinced him that think-tanks were the best medium for effecting change in society.

After serving in the Air Force during the Second World War, Fisher moved to farming. In 1952, he took a study trip to the United States, where he visited the still-new Foundation for Economic Education. F. A. Harper of the FEE introduced Fisher to former colleagues from the Agriculture Department of Cornell University, who showed him intensive chicken farming techniques with which Fisher was very impressed. Fisher returned home to start England's first battery chicken farm, Buxted Chickens, which eventually made him a millionaire.

Consequently, Fisher used his money to set up the hugely influential Institute of Economic Affairs with Ralph Harris in 1955. Despite losing his fortune in several ill-advised business ventures (including a turtle-farming operation), in 1971 he founded the International Institute for Economic Research, which went on spawn both the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in 1980 and the International Policy Network in 2001.

Through these operations, Fisher provided financial and operational support for a huge number of fledgeling think-tanks, most of which would not exist without his influence.

It was through the Atlas Economic Research Foundation that Fisher was able to extend his beliefs worldwide. By 1984, Fisher was watching over eighteen institutions in eleven countries. [1] Today, Atlas supports and works with around 150 libertarian think-tanks.

In his book Thinking the unthinkable, Richard Cockett sketched Fisher's role in supporting other emerging think-tanks around the world. "On the strength of his reputation with the IEA, he was invited in 1975 to become co-director of the Fraser Institute in Vancouver, founded by the Canadian businessman Pat Boyle in 1974. Fisher let the young director of the Fraser Institute, Dr Michael Walker, get on with the intellectual output of the Institute (just as he had given free reign to Seldon and Harris at the IEA) while he himself concentrated on the fund-raising side," Cockett wrote.

Cockett explained that after his success at the Fraser Institute, Fisher went to New York where in 1977 he set up the International Center for Economic Policy Studies (ICEPS), later renamed the Manhattan Institute. "The incorporation documents for the ICEPS were signed by prominent attorney Bill Casey, later Director of the Central Intelligence Agency".

Cockett comments that "under the directorship of William Hammett the Manhattan Institute became probably Fishers greatest success after the IEA".

In 1977 Fisher moved to San Francisco "with his second wife Dorian, who he had met through the Mont Pelerin Society, and founded the Pacific Institute for Public Policy in 1979," Cockett wrote. According to Cockett Fisher and Milton Friedman lived in the same apartment block in San Francisco during the 1980's.

In the late 1970's Fisher assisted Greg Lindsay in the development of the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney.

"In 1981, to co-ordinate and establish a central focus for these institutes that Fisher found himself start up all over the world, he created the Atlas Economic Research Foundation which in 1987 joined up with the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) founded by the Mont Pelerin member F.A. Harper in 1961) to provide a central institutional structure for what quickly became an ever-expanding number of international free-market think-tanks or research institutes," Cockett wrote.

According to Cokett, as the international think-tanks proliferated "Fisher used the local and international gatherings of the Mont Pelerin Society to find personnel, fund-raisers and donors for many of the Atlas Institutes".

Fisher died in 1988, only four weeks after being knighted.

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