by Bob Burton
For over two decades, a Virginia-based organization has been quietly working as the Johnny Appleseed of conservative think tanks. With a modest $4 million 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, quaintly titled its Investor Report, Atlas boasted that it worked with "70 new think-tank entrepreneurs from 37 foreign countries, including Lithuania, Greece, Mongolia, Ghana, the Philippines, Brazil and Argentina," as well as with several American groups.
Briton Antony Fisher founded Atlas as part of his lifelong campaign to influence the "climate of ideas" and combat "creeping socialism." Atlas credits Fisher with assisting in the early stages of development of several conservative think tanks, including the Manhattan Institute, Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco and Fraser Institute in Vancouver, Canada.