June 26, 2015 Print

Words of reminiscence and appreciation for the life and legacy of Antony Fisher, founder of Atlas Network.

Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman was one of the greatest spokesmen for liberty.

“Few people have ever been able to do as much to translate their ideas into practice. Antony Fisher's persistence and idealism and dedication deserves enormous credit for the transformation of his ideas from heresy to orthodoxy.” — Milton Friedman, from an inscription in the front of a small book written by Antony Fisher in 1948, The Case for Freedom.

Winston Churchill was prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955.

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” — Winston Churchill, speaking about those who fought at the Battle of Britain at the beginning of World War II, where Antony Fisher fought.

Margaret Thatcher was prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990.

“They were the few. But they were right, and they saved Britain.” — Margaret Thatcher, speaking about the academics and journalists who joined the “great endeavour” of the Institute of Economic Affairs, co-founded by Antony Fisher.

Robert Boyd is a member of Atlas Network’s Advisory Council, and was a founding member of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation’s Board of Directors.

For Antony, the pursuit of freedom was not simply a utilitarian matter of maximizing economic efficiency: it was a cause.

Antony had infectious enthusiasm for whatever he was engaged in and for those in whom he saw a kindred spirit — as did Ralph Harris; no wonder they were so effective through the IEA.

I remember the excitement with which he drew me in to his study to show the first episode of “Free to Choose.”

Antony admired entrepreneurial activity greatly. I remember the pride with which he told me that all his children were entrepreneurs.

Antony was keen to make the most effective use of resources, not by duplicating research that had already been developed, but rather by adapting its application to the circumstances of different countries. He saw very early on the potential for the Internet to facilitate this. The way that Atlas Network has evolved is very much an extension of what Antony envisaged decades ago.

He was a very principled businessman. Before these things became fashionable, he strongly believed in and demonstrated the greater good that a successful business — like his own chicken farming — could provide to its customers, and the duty to behave with integrity beyond an enterprise's narrow legal obligations.

Antony's impact was very much reinforced in many dimensions by his wife Dorian. She shared the same understanding of how the world works and commitment to advancing freedom, supported his work as a delightful hostess, and was a generous philanthropist in her own right.

José René Scull is a member of Atlas Network’s Board of Directors.

I will always remember Antony for his extraordinary vision, fierce determination, and mild manner. A very sweet man indeed, his penetrating blue eyes could most certainly see through you. Persuasive more then combative, his gentle and elegant style did an excellent job camouflaging the hard drive inherent to his success. The world is moved by leaders with strong convictions; Antony Fisher belonged to that club.

Around 1987, while I was living in Hong Kong, I got an unexpected phone call from him. He introduced himself over the phone, told me that he was referred to me by Ricardo Zuloaga, a fellow Mont Pelerin Society member, and that he wanted to meet me. When we met, he told me that he planned to get a public policy institute going in Hong Kong — the sooner the better, since China was going to take over in 1997. “Hong Kong is a free-market success story, and as such it should be preserved.” Though I admit having been fascinated by the idea, I was also confused. Why me? I am no academic, and as vice president of Philip Morris Asia, my job essentially was to spray the continent with Marlboro. He explained that he had already recruited John Greenwood and Dan Gressel, and that he wanted another ideologically committed businessesman with ties to the corporate world.

I said to myself, “This is unbelievable, 10 years ahead of the communist takeover, here is this dreamer talking to a young native-born Cuban exile in Hong Kong about his plan to preserve Hong Kong’s capitalist icon status!”

Well, he did it, and the Hong Kong Centre for Economic Research was born. Oh, and he brought in Hannes Gissurarson, an academic from Iceland!

Pure, vintage Antony Fisher. With his convictions and his soft-mannered persuasive style, he could sell you a land lot in the moon.

Bill Sumner is Atlas Network's Board Member Emeritus.

ANTONY, LEAVE THY LASCIVIOUS WASSAILS. Antony Fisher was a church-going straight arrow, with a quick wit, and a delightful sense of humor. Shortly after founding Atlas Network, then called Atlas Economic Research Foundation, he invited me to be treasurer. The exchequer was usually empty, as funds were sent to infant institutes as soon as a donor’s check cleared the bank. Never one to let difficult times dampen spirits, Antony would gush with enthusiasm about plans for the massive expansion of the Atlas Network family of free market think tanks. He’d laugh heartily when I’d pull the conversation back to financial reality, by waving a bank statement before his eyes, while quoting the words of Octavius Caesar in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, “Antony, leave thy lascivious wassails…”

George Pearson is a member of Atlas Network’s Board of Directors.

In the early ’70s, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a meeting between Antony and Charles Koch. Antony had come to Wichita to present his vision to Mr. Koch. In the course of the conversation, they also discussed their respective businesses: Fisher, turtle farming in the Cayman Islands; and Koch, cattle ranching in Texas and Montana. 

On the topic of promoting freedom, there was much agreement, but the second discussion amounted to a friendly debate between these two businessmen over whether a higher percentage of the body of the turtle or a higher percentage of a body of a cow worked its way into the market, and at what comparative cost. Which investment would be the most profitable? 

Sally Pipes is president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute.

2015 would mark the 100th birthday of Sir Antony Fisher, one of the 20th century’s most distinguished free-market leaders. While not as well known as Hayek, Friedman, and Baroness Thatcher, he really was the leading progenitor of free-market think tanks around the world — from the IEA to Atlas Network; from Pacific Research Institute to NCPA. I met Sir Antony many years ago when he was an advisor to the Fraser Institute in Canada. Little did I know that, in 1991, I would be appointed head of the San Francisco–based Pacific Research Institute, a think tank established by him in 1979. It is so sad that Antony is not with us today, so he could see the fruits of all of his efforts to preserve liberty. And, to top it off, he was always the perfect gentleman.

I believe that much of Antony’s success in the free-market movement can be attributed to the support of his wonderful wife and fellow free-marketeer, Dorian. It was Dorian, the ultimate hostess, who was the “power behind the throne.”  Having organized one of the early Atlas Network workshops in Vancouver in 1983, I will never forget the small group of international scholars we put together in a small, crowded room at the Bayshore Inn in Vancouver to discuss how to build a think tank and a movement. It was Dorian who sat in the front row for a day and a half taking impeccable notes in her own handwriting.  She wanted a record of this important meeting. These notes were the basis of an Atlas Network handbook on how to build a successful think tank. This handbook proved invaluable for those who would go on to build their own think tanks. It is hard to imagine how much easier her job would have been today had the laptop and iPad been at her disposal. Happy Birthday, Antony. Our hearts go out to you and Dorian as you did so much to build a thriving international free-market movement. It would not have been possible without the two of you.

The Ongoing Voyage of Sir Antony Fisher — July 2015
Remembrances of Scattering Antony’s Ashes at Sea on July 18, 1988

It was a windy day, with the departure of the yacht, Naiad, scheduled for ebb tide. Close friends and family had gathered on the pier and were boarding the vessel, which would take the ashes of Sir Antony Fisher to scatter at sea. It was his wish that his cremated remains be distributed at ebb tide. Those who know the flow of waters from the magnificent High Sierras of California’s West into the majestic Pacific Ocean and thence via mighty currents to destinations around the world will appreciate the power of Sir Antony’s last voyage. 

Antony’s beloved wife, Dorian, was deeply mourning the physical loss of this inspirational man for whom she had been both wife and partner. The faces of all were solemn and full of sorrow. Yet there was also a sense of moving forward as the boat’s powerful engines carried its occupants out of the harbor under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Moving forward had been the essence of Antony’s life. His educational opportunities, his early adult friendships, his military service in WWII, his devotion to his values and beliefs, his dedication to the principles of liberty and freedom, his personal successes; all these elements were the result of making choices and moving forward. 

The gathered group onboard knew that Antony already had been very successful in the choices he had made to bring the principles and processes for attaining and maintaining freedom to the world. All of us had been inspired and had at different times joined Antony in his vision and participated in his voyage. 

The farewells that day were bitter sweet. As his ashes were lovingly poured into the rushing ebb tide to be carried by currents out to sea and around the world, we all knew that the power of this man’s vision would endure and our own voyages to enlarge that vision had just begun.

Major contributions to the understanding and implementation of freedom worldwide have been made through the public policy think tanks Antony founded with his own generosity, as well as through the subsequent generosity of many to establish and grow Antony’s ongoing concept, now known as the Atlas Network.