In Memoriam: Linda Whetstone (1942-2021)

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 Istanbul Network for Liberty, and British Dressage. Since 2020 she served as President of the Mont Pèlerin Society, which she first attended while at Oxford at the age of 17, Her membership on the Board of British Dressage 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, and 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.”

Linda’s 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 sixty 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.

Dr. Barbara Kolm is the Vice President of the Austrian Central Bank, Director of the Austrian Economics Center (#1 Independent Think Tank in Austria and #21 in the world), President of the Hayek Institut, Professor of Austrian Economics at the University of Donja Gorica in Montenegro, and serves on several supervisory boards e.g. Vice President of the Austrian Central Bank; Vienna Insurance Group,Supervisory Board of Wiener Städtische Versicherungsverein; Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien. She was appointed Vice-Chair of the UN ITU Focus Group on Environmental Efficiency for Artificial Intelligence and other Emerging Technologies (AI4EE) and Chair of the Thematic Group on the United for Smart Sustainable City Index.

She has given numerous talks on some of the most pressing economic issues of our time, such as the geopolitical challenges posed by a rising China and the need for serious economic reforms to the bloated welfare states in Europe. Dr. Kolm not only talks the talk but also walks the walk. She has successfully managed private enterprises and non-profit organizations, and has been engaged in other entrepreneurial activities, for instance building the Austrian Economics Center from scratch to being the leading think tank in Austria within 12 years. Additionally, she is the founder and organizer of the Free Market Road Show, a forum for discussions and the exchange of ideas, in co-operation with over 100 leading think tanks and universities.