It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Linda Whetstone (1942-2021). Linda was a remarkable woman with a knack for cutting to the heart of an issue. And the heart of the issue was the ceaseless fight for the individual liberty of all people around the world. Her talents were duly recognized and appreciated by her peers. She was Chairman of the Network for a Free Society, Chairman of the Board of Free Social Networks since 2000, Chairman of the Board of the Atlas Network since 2016, and a member of the Board of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, the Mont Pèlerin Society, which she first attended in Oxford at the age of 17, the Istanbul Network for Liberty, and British Dressage. This last one spoke to Linda’s very down-to-earth attitude – a farmer, Linda also bred horses and even gave advice to Margaret Thatcher concerning agricultural policy reform.
Her professional and intellectual lineage can be traced back to Friedrich von Hayek, who famously advised Linda’s father, Sir Antony Fisher, that going into politics was not the way to effect change. Politicians are swayed by public opinion. The key then is to move public opinion through the power of ideas. Politics will follow. Linda’s father was wise enough to heed Hayek’s advice and he in turn founded the IEA in 1955, without which, according to Milton Friedman, “I doubt very much whether there would have been a Thatcherite revolution.”
Her own influence on the luminaries of our time is definite. Greater still was her unswerving dedication to the promotion of liberty in those parts of the world that need it most. Her CD Ideas for a Free Society sold over 150,000 copies in more than 60 different countries. It brought students into contact with essential texts on freedom that they otherwise would not have been able to access. In the last decade, as Western intellectuals turned increasingly inward, obsessing over populism, Linda kept her focus on those parts of the world – especially Africa and the Middle East – that did not even have the luxury of doubting the fruits of freedom. In 2016 she co-edited Islamic Foundations of a Free Society, which was translated into French, Arabic, Dari, Indonesian, Farsi, and other languages.
Linda knew that the language of liberty is universal. She set the bar high. She inspires us to reach for it.