Atlas Network

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Atlas Network
Atlas Network logo.png
Founder(s)Antony Fisher
Established1981; 41 years ago (1981)
ChairDebbi Gibbs[1]
Chief executive officerBrad Lips
BudgetRevenue: $15,545,000
Expenses: $12,963,000
Formerly calledAtlas Economic Research Foundation

Atlas Network, formerly known as the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, is a non-governmental 501(c)(3) organization based in the United States that provides training, networking and grants for libertarian and free-market groups around the world.[4][5][6][7] Atlas Network partners with about 500 organizations in nearly 100 countries.[8][9]


Atlas Network was founded in 1981 by Sir Antony Fisher, a British entrepreneur, who was influenced by economist F.A Hayek and his book, The Road to Serfdom.[10][11] After founding the Institute of Economic Affairs in London in 1955, Fisher helped establish the Fraser Institute, the Manhattan Institute and the Pacific Research Institute in the 1970s.[11] The late Linda Whetstone, Fisher's daughter and a classical liberal, served as chairman of Atlas Network.[12][13]

In 1981, Atlas Network helped economist Hernando de Soto found the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD) in Peru[9] and invested in the Institut Economique de Paris (IEP) in France.[14] In 1983, Fisher helped launch the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) in Dallas, Texas[9] and the Jon Thorlaksson Institute in Iceland.[14] That organization was replaced by the Icelandic Research Centre for Innovation and Economic Growth.[14]

Atlas Network helped establish the Hong Kong Centre for Economic Research in 1987 and the Liberty Institute in New Delhi in 1996.[9]

Margaret Thatcher, F. A. Hayek, and Milton Friedman formally endorsed the organization.[9] 

Fisher conceived of Atlas Network as a means to connect various think tanks via a global network through which the organizations could learn best practices from one another and "pass the best research and policy ideas from one to the other"[15] Atlas Network would receive funding from American and European businesses and think tanks to coordinate and organize neoliberal organizations in the developing world.[6] With few exceptions, all affiliated think tanks were established with Atlas Network funding.[16] The organization has been described as "self replicating, a think tank that creates think tanks."[17]

The 2019 and 2020 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report, published by the University of Pennsylvania, ranked the Atlas Network as 54th among the "Top Think Tanks in the United States."[18][19]

It is not named after Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged.[20]


The chief executive officer of Atlas Network is Brad Lips.[21] Lips joined Atlas Network, then known as Atlas Economic Research Foundation, in 1998[9] and became CEO in 2009. He is the author of Liberalism and the Free Society in 2021.[22][23]

Matt Warner is the organization's president, while Tom G. Palmer serves as executive vice president for international programs.[24][25] Warner and Palmer co-authored the book Development with Dignity: Self-Determination, Localization, and the End of Poverty.[26][27]

Atlas Network is organized into centers by region.[28] Entrepreneur Magatte Wade is director of the Center for African Prosperity. Antonella Marty, an Argentine human-rights activist, serves as a fellow for the Center for Latin America.[29][30][31][32] Atlas Network also runs the Center for United States and Canada and the Center for Asia and Oceania.[33][34]


Training and networking[edit]

The Atlas Network Academy teaches management and communication through credit-based courses.[35] In 2020, Atlas Network trained nearly 4,000 people in promoting free-market voices, preparing nearly 900 people to work at global think tanks.[8][36] Philadelphia Magazine described the Atlas Network as "supporting free-market approaches to eliminating poverty and noted for its refutation of climate change and defense of the tobacco industry".[37]

Atlas Network holds four regional Liberty Forums (in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe) and an international conference in the United States.[24] At its December 2021 "Liberty Forum and Freedom Dinner" in Miami, Florida, for think tank partners from around the world, Mario Vargas Llosa and Yeonmi Park were among the 800 attendees, and Yotuel performed.[38][39][40][41] [42]

In Canada, where Atlas Network partners with about a dozen think tanks including the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, it has pushed for oil and gas development on Indigenous land.[43]

Atlas Network has partnered with the F.A. Hayek Foundation in Slovakia, the Association for Liberal Thinking in Turkey, the Lithuanian Free Market Institute, and Libertad y Desarrollo in Chile to establish Free Enterprise Training Centers.[24]

In 2021, Atlas Network partnered with Cuban anti-communism activist Ruhama Fernandez to share her story after Fernandez was arrested for criticizing the Cuban government.[44] The Ukraine-based Bendukidze Free Market Center is also an Atlas Network partner.[45]


Atlas Network provides limited amounts of financial support to new think tanks on a case-by-case basis. Grants are usually given for specific projects and range between $2,000 and $5,000.[46] In 2020, Atlas Network provided more than $5 million in the form of grants to support its network of around 500 partners worldwide.[47][non-primary source needed]

The organization funds Costa Rica's IDEAS Labs, which helped reform the country's pension laws in 2020.[48] Atlas also supports the Philippines-based Foundation for Economic Freedom, which works on property rights.[48]

Atlas Network’s Templeton Freedom Award, supported by Templeton Religion Trust and named after Sir John Templeton, was established in 2004.[49][50] In 2015, the Acton Institute was awarded $100,000 for its documentary film, “Poverty, Inc.[50] In 2020, the Center for Indonesian Policy Studies won the award for their Affordable Food for the Poor Initiative.[51][52]


Atlas Network's Think Tank Shark Tank competition allows professionals to pitch their projects to judges.[53] In 2018, Dhananath Fernando won the Asia Think Tank Shark championship for his research on the high cost of construction in Sri Lanka and his proposal to lower the taxes on construction materials.[54] Students for Liberty Brazil won the 2021 Latin America competition for their project on educating Brazilian favela residents about property rights.[55]


As a non-governmental 501(c)(3) organization, Atlas Network receives donations from different foundations, individuals, and corporations, but does not accept government funding.[35]

As of 2005, Atlas Network had received $440,000 from ExxonMobil,[56] and has received at least $825,000 USD from the tobacco company Philip Morris.[57] Of Atlas Network partners, 57% in the United States had received funding from the tobacco industry.[57] Atlas Network has received funding from Koch family foundations.[4] Corporate funding accounted for less than 2% of Atlas Network's total donations in 2020. Atlas Network partners have received tobacco-related funding in the past, although "fossil-fuel and tobacco interests" have provided less than 1% of Atlas’ funding over the last two decades.[8][58]

Atlas Network receives donations primarily from individuals and foundations, such as the John Templeton Foundation and the Lilly Endowment.[59]

As of 2020, Atlas Network had assets of $15,450,264.[60]


The Network has been criticised for its links to the tobacco industry.[37][61][62] A 2017 paper in the International Journal of Health Planning and Management described the Network as a "strategic ally" of the industry, saying that it "channeled funding from tobacco corporations to think tank actors to produce publications supportive of industry positions."[57] The Tobacco Control Research Group of the University of Bath described the network as having a "longstanding funding relationship with the tobacco industry" and that it "appears to have played a particular role in helping the tobacco industry oppose tobacco control measures in Latin America."[63]

The Network has also been criticised for its links to radical right-wing movements, including the administration of Donald Trump, and over Brexit, anti-left-wing-government protests in Latin America, and the climate crisis.[64][65][66][67] A 2022 investigation by The Narwhal, Floodlight News, and The Guardian found that the Network had lobbied the Canadian government "to limit how much Indigenous communities can push back on energy development on their own land" while promoting "the view that Indigenous prosperity is virtually impossible without oil and gas."[68] In 2019, Le Monde diplomatique and DeSmog stated that there was evidence that the Network was "directly implicated in secretive US lobbying efforts to subvert British democracy" and that it had "systematically penetrated the top layer of the Trump administration through a wide range of political appointments of Atlas connections."[69]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Marie Laure Djelic: Building an architecture for political influence: Atlas and the transnational institutionalization of the neoliberal think tank. In: Christina Garsten, Adrienne Sörbom (eds.), Power, Policy and Profit. Corporate Engagement in Politics and Governance. Elgar, Cheltenham 2017, ISBN 978 1 78471 120 7

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°54′14″N 77°01′43″W / 38.9038°N 77.0285°W / 38.9038; -77.0285