Atlas Economic Research Foundation

The Atlas Economic Research Foundation was founded in 1981 by Antony Fisher.

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 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, quaintly titled its "Investor Report," Atlas boasted 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.

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.

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

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 Economic Research Foundation
2000 North 14th Street, Suite 550, Arlington, VA 22201

Atlas have offices close to the Whitehouse and another close to the Pentagon, just across the Arlington cemetery.

Alejandro Antonio Chafuen has been president and CEO of Atlas Economic Research Foundation since 1991 and is president and founder of the Hispanic American Center of Economic Research also located next to the Whitehouse.

Chafuen also serves as a trustee of the Acton Institute of Religion and Liberty and the Chase Foundation of Virginia. Since 1980, he has been a member of the Mont Pelerin Society. He owns a small number of shares of both AES and ExxonMobil.


“Global companies are buying up think-tanks left, right and centre. Large cheques come attached to particular policy recommendations and senior corporate types sit on committees ready to ‘candle-snuff’ dangerous ideas.”

"Venture capital firms use specialized expertise to invest in startup companies with the goal of achieving very high returns. Atlas operates in a similar manner, putting resources into new and innovative institutes and programs, then monitoring those investments to improve their chances of success."

"In 1981, in his twilight years, Sir Antony then founded Atlas. His charge to Atlas was “to litter the world with free-market think tanks.” True to his wishes, we have been very busy litterbugs, indeed. Atlas has helped to launch or nurture some 275 free-market think tanks in 70 nations around the world."

"In 1984, many people considered Charles Murray’s ideas on welfare reform impractical, impolite, and, to some, even insensitive. But 12 years after he wrote Losing Ground — in which he outlined his blueprint for welfare reform — Democratic President Bill Clinton signed a Republican bill that ended welfare as we knew it. Charles Murray’s radical ideas became the law of the land."

"The war against terrorism is a war without end. Alejandro Chafuen"

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