May 12, 2015 Print

Photo Credit: Silvester Surla/Reporter Magazine, Slovenia

Borut Prah of Slovenia was a dear friend of Atlas Network and a member of Atlas Network’s Advisory Council. Prah passed away May 5, 2015. Atlas Network’s president, Dr. Alex Chafuen, met Prah almost 30 years ago through Atlas Network founder Antony Fisher, and they shared many passions: tennis, wine, simple Mediterranean food, computers, and wonderful spouses — but, above all, the passion for freedom.

“He was fun to be around,” Chafuen said. “The rest is history, but together with his wife Nadine he has helped plant many seeds in Slovenia that will yield liberty fruits forever.”

He and Nadine came into contact with Atlas Network in 1985, in the San Francisco Bay Area, when Prah met Fisher at the suggestion of economist Ljubo Sirc. Chafuen also met Prah that same year.

“As my grandmother lived in the former Yugoslavia, and we had other things in common, we soon developed a good friendship,” Chafuen said. “His first recommendation, as a former marketing executive of IBM, was that Atlas Network should look into the budding Internet (IBM had the Profs software, which was a precursor of computer based communications) to conduct its work across the globe. We incorporated the topic at a session during Atlas Network’s first workshop for Latin Americans, held in Jamaica in 1987. Thanks to Borut, IBM loaned us their proprietary slides (this was before PowerPoint), which we used as the basis of a session on how to use new technologies to promote and disseminate public policy research and communicate among think tanks. Thanks to Borut’s insights, Atlas Network was the first think tank to have a computer billboard (which worked like a Facebook without pictures), and we held sessions promoting the use of BITNET (precursor to the web).”

Vida Ribnikar and Borut Prah, after an Atlas Network meeting discussing programs to promote economic freedom in Slovenia.

Prah soon began providing advice to Atlas Network on Central and Eastern European programs. During the late 1990s, Nadine Prah was the accountant for another Slovenian, Vida Ribnikar. She introduced Vida to Chafuen, and the meeting went very well. Vida’s first stop, after escaping from socialism, was Argentina, Chafuen’s native country. Soon after that meeting, Ribnikar made a donation to Atlas Network to further efforts in Slovenia. The Prahs also became personal donors to Atlas Network.

With those funds, Atlas Network sponsored young Slovenian fellows attending our programs; trips of Slovenians to market-oriented conferences; participation of a judge in a program at George Mason University Law School; support for budding institutes; and small grants for hosting conferences and publications. Ribnikar provided feedback on the programs, and valued working with the younger generations and exposing them to the best of American free-enterprise traditions. She respected the work of universities, and when she died she left a legacy for the school of forestry at the University of Ljubljana. She relied mostly on Prah as her intellectual guide. When preparing her will, she left a hand-written note stating that Prah should handle the details of the legacy going to Atlas Network, and her generosity facilitated many more Atlas Network efforts.

Photo Credit: Gregor Pohleven / Democracy

Below is a short biography from Prah’s website:

I, Borut Prah, was born in Kranj, Slovenia as a subject of the Yugoslavian king to parents who were born as subjects of Kaiser Franz Josef to parents whose grandparents were subjects of Napoleon Bonaparte. In spite of such turbulent family history, the future turned out worse than the past.

I started school under Mussolini. For two years I was taught how to pray to the pictures of the Italian king — until these were replaced by pictures of Hitler. Like most Slovenians I never learned to pray to either. Unfortunately both monsters did not last long — for they were replaced by even worse evil. Stalin sent troops to help Tito’s Communists replace “Heil Hitlers” with slogans to Marx, Engels, Stalin and even Albanian premier Enver Hoxha. In such circumstances it made no sense to study the perverted communist business or law. I decided on electrical engineering, a subject which I assumed even Marxists could not subvert. As I explain in my 1989 book The Party Is Over, it was a wrong assumption.

In 1957 I left Yugoslavia to study physics in France. There I discovered that the computer has already been invented. Disappointed, I left for Australia being sure that with ten million people this was a place for automation. After discovering the paradox that one needs people to automate them I went to America where in August of 1963 I joined IBM in San Francisco as a systems engineer. From 1971 I held various management positions and by 1987, when I retired from IBM, our annual revenue has grown from $5 billion to over $50 billion. These were the heady years when new computer companies such as Microsoft and Oracle were forming in garages all over the West, so I too founded Da Vinci Group Consulting — an IBM business partner. But more significant events were in store. The Soviet Union was collapsing — and to help it along I started to write a book on the accomplishments of Communism. This was a lot easier than starting a new business.

Yet, in 1990, I founded Macrosolutions, Inc., an Oakland, California software development company for interactive consumer systems and participated in venture capitalism. Then came Clinton and I needed more time for projects such as The Party Is Over to prevent the neo-marxists to do more damage to the United States of America.