Institute of Economic Affairs

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The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) is Britain's oldest free market think tank . It was founded by Antony Fisher in 1955 and his self-description is: "UK's original free-market think-tank".


A meeting between Antony Fisher and the economist Friedrich August von Hayek at the LSE in 1947 was important for the establishment of the IEA . Fisher had read a summary of Hayek's The Road to Serfdom and wanted to help spread Hayek's ideas.

At this meeting, Hayek advised Fisher against a political career. Instead, he proposed the establishment of a research institute to provide intellectuals at universities and in journalism with studies on economic theory and its practical applications. During a stay in the USA in 1952, Fisher attended the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) , which became the model for his founding of a think tank . In 1955 he met the politician and businessman Oliver Smedley . With the support of his company Investment and General Management Services (IGMS), Fisher founded the Institute of Economic Affairs in London on November 9th . The first director of the IEA was from 1956 the economist and journalist Ralph Harris . The economist Arthur Seldon , who was responsible for the institute's publication activities , became vice director .


The IEA hosted a meeting of the Mont Pèlerin Society (MPS) in Oxford in 1959 . There Harris and Seldon stated that after the Second World War the idea of ​​the free market had not found acceptance. This is the task of the IEA. The goal of establishing and maintaining a free society presupposes three basic requirements:

  • First, the idea of ​​a market economy should be widely accepted,
  • Second, compensation would have to be found for those interests that are affected by the restructuring of a managed economy
  • and thirdly, precautions must be taken to make any demand on politicians for protection from the consequences of the changes senseless.

The IEA dealt primarily with the first point, i. H. with the change in the intellectual climate. The specific demands of Harris and Seldon included: liberalization of foreign and foreign exchange trade, abolition of rationing, end of labor allocation, freeing up of rents, combating restraints of competition, reversing nationalization , participation in the National Health Service , approval of private TV stations and farewell from the policy of cheap money .

Publication activity and work

In their publications, many authors at the IEA support measures that did not seem politically enforceable at the time of publication, but which received broad approval from the 1980s onwards. Seldon argued in Pensions in a Free Society in 1957 for the gradual transition from a state to a privately organized pension system. In 1963, Georg Tugendhat , in Freedom for Fuel, considered the British coal industry to be uneconomical and called for 350 mines to be closed. Michael Canes compared 1966 in Telephones - Public or Private? the British with the US telephone system and came to the conclusion that the service quality of the British system could be increased through privatization. Through his membership in the MPS , Seldon was able to win internationally recognized economists as guest authors, such as Friedrich August von Hayek , Gottfried Haberler , James M. Buchanan and Milton Friedman . The most important and controversial publications of the IEA were in the two areas of price stability and trade unions . In The Counter-Revolution in Monetary Theory (1970) Friedman argued against Keynesianism . A well-known quote from this article reads: "Inflation is always and elsewhere a monetary phenomenon [...]". In A Tiger by the Tail (1972) and Unemployment and the Unions (1980), Hayek took a critical look at the position of the trade unions.

The facility has also long supported the work of climate deniers who deny the existence of man-made global warming .


The IEA does not officially disclose the exact sources of its funding, but has been criticized by health organizations and the daily The Guardian for accepting donations from the tobacco industry for years and at the same time interfering in the public debate on tobacco use and smoking bans. Among other things, the think tank has received funds from British American Tobacco since 1963 . British American Tobacco confirmed donations of £ 40,000 to the institute in 2013, £ 20,000 in 2012 and £ 10,000 in 2011. Philip Morris International and Japan Tobacco International also confirmed financial support for the IEA. In 2002 it became known that the well-known IEA member Roger Scruton had written a pamphlet in which he criticized the anti-tobacco policy of the World Health Organization while he was also advising the cigarette company Japan Tobacco International.

According to the Transparify initiative , which is supported by the Open Society Foundation , the IEA is one of the three think tanks in Great Britain that are the least transparent about their funding. Influential organizations like the IEA that refuse to disclose their funding are threatening the foundations of democracy , according to George Monbiot in The Guardian .


Economist Milton Friedman believes that without the IEA the Thatcherite revolution would not have existed in Great Britain. For the social scientists Dieter Plehwe and Bernhard Walpen , the IEA can be seen as a prototype of neoliberal think tanks. The contemporary historian Dominik Geppert sees the IEA as the most important journalistic pioneer of the New Right in Great Britain.


  • Richard Cockett: Thinking the Unthinkable - Think-Tanks and the Economic Counter-Revolution, 1931-83 . Fontana Press, 1995.
  • Keith Dixon: The Evangelists of the Market - The British Intellectuals and Thatcherism . UVK, 2000.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Richard Cockett: Thinking the Unthinkable - Think-Tanks and the Economic Counter-Revolution, 1931–83 . Fontana Press, 1995, pp. 122-130.
  2. Christopher Muller: The Institute of Economic Affairs - Undermining the Post-War Consensus . In: Contemporary British History , Volume 10, Issue 1, Spring 1996, pp. 88-110.
  3. ^ Richard Cockett: Thinking the Unthinkable - Think-Tanks and the Economic Counter-Revolution, 1931–83 . Fontana Press, 1995, pp. 139 f.
  4. Philip Plickert: Changes in Neoliberalism - A study on the development and charisma of the 'Mont Pèlerin Society' . Lucius & Lucius, 2008, p. 298.
  5. ^ Richard Cockett: Thinking the Unthinkable - Think-Tanks and the Economic Counter-Revolution, 1931–83 . Fontana Press, 1995, p. 141 ff.
  6. See Riley E. Dunlap, Aaron M. McCright: Organized Climate Change Denial. In: John S. Dryzek, Richard B. Norgaard, David Schlosberg (Eds.): The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society. Oxford University Press, 2011, 144-160, p. 155.
  7. Heard a think tank on the BBC? You haven't heard the whole story . In: The Guardian , July 15, 2013. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  8. British American Tobacco's response to ASH - June 2014 . Retrieved March 19, 2015.
  11. Pro-tobacco writer admits he should have declared an interest . Retrieved March 19, 2015.
  12. ^ Sarah Neville, British think-tanks 'less transparent about sources of funding' , Financial Times , February 17, 2015
  13. George Monbiot: Dark money lurks at the heart of our political crisis | George Monbiot. July 18, 2018, accessed July 18, 2018 .
  14. ^ Richard Cockett: Thinking the Unthinkable - Think-Tanks and the Economic Counter-Revolution, 1931–83 . Fontana Press, 1995, p. 158.
  15. Dieter Plehwe and Bernhard Walpen: Buena Vista Neoliberal? In: Klaus-Gerd Giesen: Ideologies in world politics . VS-Verlag, 2004, pp. 49-88.
  16. ^ Dominik Geppert: Thatcher's Conservative Revolution - The Change of Direction of the British Tories (1975-1979) . Oldenbourg, 2002, p. 234.