Travis Fisher experienced a political epiphany as a junior in college: He wanted to become an advocate for free markets.
Until then, Travis considered himself a confused, left-leaning moderate in his political philosophy. Then a two-fold revelation occurred — he began reading the works of the French classical liberal theorist Frederic Bastiat and he took a course in economics at N.C. State University. Both set him on the path to fiscal conservatism.
“I came to believe in free markets from the political left,” Travis said. “I remember thinking the way that Bastiat explained the economic harmony that emerges from free markets appealed to me the most.”
Soon afterward, Travis switched to an economics major — a decision that he’s never regretted. From the moment he took his first economics course, the subject matter clicked with him.
“That was an eye-opening moment when I really got the concepts, and when I started asking and exploring questions instead of just reading the material,” he said.
Travis gained additional economics experience as an intern at the free-market think tank the John Locke Foundation and through the N.C. State University program on the Economic, Legal, and Political Foundations of Free Societies.
That was in 2006. Since graduating, Travis has built a successful career in the world of energy policy. He approaches the topic from the unique angle of a free marketeer, in a field where few free-market advocates exist.
At his first job out of college, Travis joined the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as an economist. He spent seven years there.
“It showed me how government actually works, rather than how it seems to work from the outside,” he said. “I had to learn how to express my viewpoint civilly; how to ask lots of questions and have balance in what I said.”
Deciding to leave government employment, Travis recently took a job with the free-market Institute for Energy Research in Washington, D.C., as a policy associate. He sees the policy area of energy as a particularly difficult one to navigate as an advocate of free-markets.
“It seems conventional wisdom that government should get more involved in energy,” he said. “It’s counter intuitive to argue that government should get out of energy. But I like the challenge.”
Never out of a job
“Most people in the free-market movement want to work themselves out of a job — to get to the point where you don’t have to remind people that markets are good,” Travis said. “I can understand that feeling, but it’s probably never going to happen. I’m OK with that. I want to keep working hard.”
For the future, Travis wants to create a body of scholarly work in the free-market energy field and perhaps write books. In the end, he wants to establish a career based on honesty.
North Carolina’s motto is his favorite of all the 50 states: “To be, rather than to seem.”
“I really value that — honesty,” Travis said.
To him, being an advocate for free-markets in the energy sphere is about keeping an open mind.
“As economist Julian Simon would say, our only limit to what we can produce with our given resources is our imagination,” Travis said. “Some industries seem profitable from the outside, but internally they’re propped up by subsidies, mandates, and free loans. In a free market, only pursuits that are genuinely valuable to people will bear fruit. That’s the ideal I’m fighting for.”
To learn more about the John William Pope Foundation’s support for educational institutions like ELPFFS at N.C. State University and public policy organizations like the John Locke Foundation, click here and here.