May 22, 2014 Print

In what represented the 24th annual edition of the Sir Antony Fisher Memorial Award, named for the founder of the Atlas Network, went to "How China Became Capitalist" written by the late Nobel Laureate Ronald Coase and Ning Wang, Senior Fellow of the Ronald Coase Institute, and co-published by the Institute of Economic Affairs. In the book the authors argue that the decisions of China’s people, not its government, are to be credited with China’s economic success. “Atlas is deeply honored to recognize this important book and also to honor the incredible life of Ronald Coase, whom we lost earlier this year,” said Brad Lips, Atlas Network CEO when announcing the award. “During the past few months we’ve seen China’s government continue to make headlines for its intolerance towards ideas and opinions it doesn’t like. This book represents not only a work of serious economic history, but it is also makes a compelling call for a more open market for ideas in China.” Published in 2012, the book makes new claims about the role of spontaneous private behavior in driving economic reforms, with the Communist Party moving slowly out of the way. The authors detail major, mostly unplanned shifts such as private farming, street-level exchange, and regional competition, the latter serving to transform China into “a gigantic laboratory where many different economic experiments were tried simultaneously.” Tying China’s success to this liberalized market for goods, the authors warn China’s future success will depend on liberalizing the market for ideas, explaining, “As our modern economy becomes more and more knowledge-driven, the gains from free exchange of ideas are too great; the costs of suppressing it are too high.” The award was accepted by Ning Wang on November 13, 2013 during Atlas Network’s Liberty Forum in New York City. The award carried a prize of $10,000.