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Encyclopedia > Atlas Economic Research Foundation

The Atlas Economic Research Foundation was founded in 1981 by Antony Fisher. 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 of Economic Affairs and the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. ...



With a modest $4 million dollar budget in 2003 and a staff of eight, Atlas Economic Research Foundation is on a mission to populate the world with new "free market" voices. In its 2003 review of activities, "Investor Report," Atlas said that it worked with "70 new think-tank entrepreneurs from 37 foreign countries and several states of the U.S.," including Lithuania, Greece, Mongolia, Ghana, the Philippines, Brazil and Argentina.

The mission of Atlas, according to John Blundell (president from 1987 to 1990), "is to litter the world with free-market think-tanks."

Named after the Greek god condemned to bear the heavens on his shoulders, Atlas identifies, screens and offers initial support to individuals and groups who want to create local think tanks. "Our ideal 'intellectual entrepreneur,'" says Atlas, is "someone who communicates effectively with businessmen, academicians and the general public." By facilitating the establishment of local think tanks, Atlas increases both the reach and local credibility of their "free market" message, thereby having "the most cost-effective impact."

Since its formation in 1981, Atlas has funnelled over $20 million in grants to think tanks that have passed its screening process. Atlas aims, it says, to "increase that amount tenfold in the next decade." In 2003, a little over $2 million of Atlas's 2003 budget was passed on to other think tanks. While the large conservative foundations take the approach of making large sustained and often untied grants, Atlas believes less is more, providing new think tanks with only small grants of $5,000 or less. Atlas weans their fledgling projects off this modest annual funding within five years, making exception only for specific innovative projects.

Atlas' think tanks, Chaufen continued, have "remarkable successes" even though they were often faced with "unsympathetic local traditions and ideas. Still, these think tanks have become one of the first places opinion leaders and policy makers go when they are looking for market-based solutions to difficult social, economic or environmental problems".

While Atlas calculates that its "family" comprises approximately one-third of the world's 470 "market oriented" think tanks, it worries that "many young think tanks lack know-how regarding reaching the media and communicating a message effectively." To help build skills, Atlas recruited Vince Breglio, co-founder and senior executive with the market research and public relations company Wirthlin Worldwide. Wirthlin Worldwide describes itself as a strategic research and consulting firm. While perhaps best known publicly for its market research work, it also provides public relations services to clients such as for crisis management. ...

At its mid-August conference in Salt Lake City, Breglio gave PR tips in a two-hour workshop titled "communicating the message of liberty." A veteran of the 1980 and 1984 Reagan Presidential campaigns, Breglio is no stranger to helping sell unpopular ideas, having advised both R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris on public opposition to smoking. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR), based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and founded by Richard Joshua Reynolds in 1874, is the second-largest tobacco firm in the global tobacco industry, and the second-largest U.S. firm (behind Philip Morris). ... Altria Group, Inc. ...

According to an Atlas report on the conference, Breglio told participants in the two-hour workshop that building a larger supporter base depends on "persuading by reason, motivating by emotion".[1]

"Breglio showed the workshop a methodical approach to identifying the "emotional drivers" that motivate individuals on a given issue, and then developing a communications strategy that links a product or idea to the needs of an audience," the conference report stated. Download pdf copy of presentation - 450k file


Some of the other organisations that Atlas has supported include:

Closely affiliated organisations include: The Fraser Institute is a fiscally conservative Canadian think tank. ... The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research is an influential conservative think tank based in New York, and established in 1978. ... The Pacific Research Institute (PRI) is a free market think tank based in San Francisco, California. ... The National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) is a non-partisan, non-profit think tank that develops and promotes private alternatives to government regulation and control, solving problems by relying on the strength of the competitive, entrepreneurial private sector. ... The Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) is an Australian think tank, founded in April 1976 by Greg Lindsay (Executive Director). ... The Adam Smith Institute is a think tank based in the United Kingdom, named after the father of modern economics, Adam Smith. ... The Lion Rock Institute 獅子山學會 was founded in 2004. ...

They have a database called Freedom Directory with basic information about 600+ think tanks and similar organizations. The International Policy Network (IPN) is a non-profit organisation based in the United Kingdom. ... The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) is a London-based conservative think tank. ...


  • Alejandro Chafuen, President and Chief Executive Officer
  • Colleen Dyble, Associate Director of Institute Relations
  • Jo Kwong, Director of Institute Relations
  • Leonard Liggio, Executive Vice President - Academics
  • Brad Lips, Chief Operating Officer and Secretary/Treasurer
  • Chris Martin, Associate Director of Programs
  • Elena Ziebarth, Associate Director of Public Affairs
  • Joyce Schroeder, Office Manager
  • Priscilla Tacujan, Assistant to the Executive Vice President

Board of directors Leonard Liggio (born July 5, 1933) is a self-described classical liberal author, research professor of law at George Mason University, and executive vice president of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Fairfax, Virginia. ... This article is about a musician. ...

  • William Sumner, Chairman
  • James Arthur Pope, Vice Chairman
  • John Blundell
  • Timothy Browne
  • Alejandro Garza Lagüera
  • George Pearson
  • René Scull
  • Linda Whetstone
  • Curtin Winsor

William Graham Sumner (1840-1910), American professor at Yale College for many years where he had a reputation among students as one of the most influential teachers. ... George Pearson (1875-1973) was a pioneering English film director, producer and screenwriter. ...


The foundation's funding comes from corporate and institutional sources. During 2002, $193,500 of the organisation's funding came from the Earhart Foundation, $100,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation, and $50,000 from the Carthage Foundation. The Earhart Foundation has given more than $1m since 1995. [3] The Earhart Foundation is a foundation that funds research and scholarship. ... Richard Mellon Scaife (born July 3, 1932, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), a U.S. billionaire and owner–publisher of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. ... The Carthage Foundation is one of the American Scaife Foundations. ... The Earhart Foundation is a foundation that funds research and scholarship. ...

Known corporate donors include ExxonMobil, which according to the Greenpeace website ExxonSecrets.org., has contributed over $500,000 since 1998. Exxon itself discloses contributions of $65,000 in 1998 (then Exxon) [4] and $50,000 during 2002. [5] XOM, this companys ticker symbol, redirects here. ...

Ironically, Atlas requires its protégé think tanks to be "independent." "That is, independent of corporations, independent of governments, independent of political parties and even independent of universities," Atlas President Alejandro A. Chaufen said in an April 1999 interview.

In a May 1998 fundraising pitch to tobacco giant Phillip Morris, Chaufen explained that keeping its think tanks off the dole of political parties, universities, government agencies and lobbies "helps keep their ideas and recommendations untainted by real or perceived political or organizational ties" and "helps protect them and us against potential scandal. Think tanks tied to politicians and parties can easily become instruments of corruption. Indeed, in several instances, public officials have enriched themselves and their allies through the 'think tanks' they control," Chaufen wrote. Altria Group, Inc. ...

In 1995 alone Philip Morris contributed $475,000 to Atlas according to an internal budget document released as part of the settlement of the legal action brought by several U.S. states' attorneys general. In 1997, despite a tight budget, PM staff recommended Atlas receive $150,000 because of the organization's ability, through its events and public advocacy work, to "positively impact the regulatory environment, particularly in Latin America." The think tanks fostered by Atlas, PM staff wrote approvingly, results in "an improved operating environment for all PM businesses."

More recently, Atlas has gained financial support the British mutual fund businessman, John Templeton. The Templeton foundation - in conjunction with Atlas - has established the Templeton Freedom Prizes for Excellence in Promoting Liberty. The prizes, $10,000 for the winner and $5,000 for the runner up are for "market-oriented poverty programs; for ethics and values; for social entrepreneurship and for student outreach". Under the awards it is planned that $1.25 million will be distributed between now and 2007.

External links

  • Alejandro Chafuen, Letter to Matt Winokur (Philip Morris), Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, Bates Number: 2065243814/3816, December 1998
  • Richard Cockett, Thinking the unthinkable: think-tanks and the economic counter-revolution, 1931-1983, Fontana Press, 1995. (This book has a brief section on the role of Atlas in spawning and supporting emerging think-tanks around the world pages 307-8).
  • Eli Lehrer, The Atlas Foundation Shoulders the World (Interview with Chafuen), Insight on the News, April 19, 1999
  • David R. Sands, "Fighting the war", Washington Times, June 7, 2004.
  • Atlas Economic Research Foundation, "Communicating the Ideal of Liberty", undated, accessed November 2004.
  • Atlas Economic Research Foundation at SourceWatch
  • About Hayek; New Media, UFM
This article uses content from the SourceWatch article on Atlas Economic Research Foundation under the terms of the GFDL.



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