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The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), founded in 1955, styles itself the UK's pre-eminent free-market think-tank. Its mission is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems.[1]

The IEA tries to achieve its mission by:

  • a publishing programme
  • conferences, seminars and lectures
  • outreach to university, college and school students
  • brokering media introductions and appearances;
  • and other related activities

The core belief of free-marketeers is that people should be free to do what they want in life as long as they don't harm anyone else. They say that on the whole, society's problems and challenges are best dealt with by people and companies interacting with each other freely without interference from politicians and the State. This means that government action, whether through taxes, regulation or laws, should be kept to a minimum. IEA authors and speakers are therefore always on the look-out for ways of reducing the government's role in our lives.[1]



In 1945 Antony Fisher read a summary of The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek in the front of the April issue of Reader’s Digest. Later that year Fisher visited Hayek at the London School of Economics. The economist dissuaded Fisher from embarking on a political and parliamentary career in order to try and prevent the spread of socialism and central planning. Instead, Hayek suggested the establishment of a body which could engage in research and reach the intellectuals with reasoned argument. If the intellectuals could be convinced of the benefits of free-markets, the politicians would follow.

In June 1955 The Free Convertibility of Sterling by George Winder was published, with Fisher signing the foreword as Director of the IEA. Later that year, in November, the IEA’s Original Trust Deed was signed by Fisher, John Harding and Oliver Smedley. Ralph Harris (later Lord Harris) began work as part-time General Director in January 1957. He was joined in 1958 by Arthur Seldon, who was initially appointed Editorial Advisor and became the Editorial Director in 1959. Seldon proposed a series of Papers for economists to explore the market approach to the issues of the day. Eventually, these emerged as the Hobart Papers; 154 had been published by August 2006. In addition, 32 Hobart Paperbacks had been released along with 139 Occasional Papers, 61 Readings and 61 Research Monographs. A large number of other titles have been published in association with trade and university presses.[2]

The first number of the The Journal of Economic Affairs was published in October 1980. Economic Affairs continues to be published to the present day. Indeed, IEA publications are now sold throughout the world - reprinted and translated into over twenty-five languages. By 2006 the Institute had subscribers in over 55 countries, sales in more than 65 countries and conference attendees from over 50 countries. In the UK, many IEA titles have become mandatory in university and classroom reading lists.[1]

The IEA has also played an active role in developing similar institutions across the globe. A world-wide network of over one hundred institutions in nearly eighty countries has been created. All are independent but share in the IEA's mission.[1]

Many IEA ideas first considered controversial have become almost conventional wisdom, from the abolition of exchange controls and the repeal of resale price maintenance to congestion charging and central bank independence. Andrew Marr called the Institute "undoubtedly the most influential think tank in modern British history"[3]

More broadly, IEA authors claim to have paved the way for the conquering of inflation, the reform of trade unions and the privatisation of the commanding heights of the economy. Today IEA authors are concerned with regulation issues, the reform of public services and a market driven vision of European integration.


The IEA is a registered educational and research charity.[4] As such it is entirely funded by voluntary donations from individuals, companies and foundations who want to support its work, plus income from book sales and conferences. It does no contract work, accepts no money from government and is entirely independent of any political party or group.[1]


The Institute has an ambitious publishing programme. IEA papers are arranged in a series of titles, each with its own 'brand image'. The main series of publications is complemented by the Institute's quarterly journal Economic Affairs. [1]

The Institute's research activities are aided by an international Academic Advisory Council and a panel of Honorary Fellows. Together with other academics they review all prospective IEA publications. Their comments are passed on anonymously to the authors. This process means that all IEA papers are subjected to the same rigorous independent blind-refereeing process that is used by leading academic journals. The views expressed in IEA papers are those of the authors and not of the Institute (which has no corporate view), its Trustees, Directors or Advisers.

Some twelve economists engaged in the IEA's work have gone on to win the Nobel Prize in Economics: Gary Becker, James M. Buchanan, Ronald Coase, Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, John Hicks, James Meade, Douglass C. North, Elinor Ostrom, Vernon L. Smith, George Stigler and Oliver E. Williamson. The condensed version of Hayek's The Road to Serfdom has been republished by the IEA [2], while the work of Nobel Prize Winners is reprinted in The Road to Economic Freedom[3] with a foreword by Margaret Thatcher[4]. The IEA has also recently published groundbreaking research in areas such as business ethics, economic development, education, pensions, regulation, taxation and transport.

In September 2008, the Institute started the IEA blog [5] as a further means to disseminate free-market ideas.

In Octobe2 2009, the IEA appointed Mark Littlewood as its next Director General. Littlewood takes up the post from 1st December 2009.


  • Mark Littlewood, Director General and Ralph Harris Fellow
  • Philip Booth, Editorial and Programme Director

IEA Fellows

  • Terry Arthur, IEA Pensions and Regulation Fellow
  • James Bartholomew, IEA Social Policy Fellow
  • John Blundell, IEA Distinguished Senior Fellow
  • Keith Boyfield, IEA Regulation Fellow
  • Dr Robert L. Bradley, IEA Energy and Climate Change Fellow
  • Professor Tim Congdon, IEA Economics Fellow
  • Professor Dennis O'Keeffe, IEA Education and Welfare Fellow
  • Richard D. North, IEA Media Fellow
  • Dr Mark Pennington, IEA Political Economy Fellow
  • Professor John Spiers, IEA Health Policy Fellow
  • Dr Elaine Sternberg, IEA Philosophy and Corporate Governance Fellow
  • Dr Cento Veljanovski, IEA Law and Economics Fellow

Honorary Fellows


  • IEA website
  • Richard Cockett, Thinking the unthinkable: think-tanks and the economic counter-revolution, 1931-1983, Fontana Press, 1995, ISBN 0-00-637586-3
  1. ^ a b c d e "about the IEA". Institute of Economic Affairs. Retrieved 2009-10-29.  
  2. ^ "about the IEA: chronology". Institute of Economic Affairs. Retrieved 2009-10-29.  
  3. ^ Andrew Marr BBC 2007 A History of Modern Britain
  4. ^ The Institute of Economic Affairs Limited, Registered Charity no. 235351 at the Charity Commission

See also

External links

This article uses content from the SourceWatch article on Institute of Economic Affairs under the terms of the GFDL.


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