Free-market philanthropy paved the way for Margaret Thatcher

Grant-making efforts by Sir Antony Fisher in Great Britain paved the way for Margaret Thatcher’s pro-free market reforms, according to Jacqueline Pfeffer Merrill at Philanthropy Daily. She writes:

Many tributes have been paid to Baroness Thatcher’s intelligence, fortitude, and statesmanship. And, while these encomia are thoroughly deserved, her successes were not hers alone.

Thatcher’s success in changing Britain were in part due to changes in public opinion that preceded her election and may be credited, in part, to Sir Antony Fisher, the remarkable philanthropist who set about to change Britain by changing the views of those we would today call opinion-leaders.

Fisher did not set out to be a philanthropist. Serving in the Royal Air Force during World War II, he became a firm opponent of totalitarianism. Persuaded by economist F. A. Hayek’s argument that British socialism tended to totalitarianism, Fisher visited Hayek to ask for advice about how best to check British socialism.

Fisher first proposed that he would enter politics and run for parliament. Hayek, however, convinced him that the best way to fight socialism was to inform opinion leaders about its dangers. Hayek was convinced that opinion leaders — Hayek called them “intellectuals” — had tremendous sway over policy.