Institute of Economic Affairs

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Institute of Economic Affairs
Abbreviation IEA
Formation 1955
Type Free Market Think Tank
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Director General
Mark Littlewood

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) is a think tank based in Westminster, London, United Kingdom. Founded in 1955,[1] it promotes free market economics.[2]


In 1945, Antony Fisher read a summary of The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek.[3] Later that year, Fisher visited Hayek at the London School of Economics.[3] Hayek dissuaded Fisher from embarking on a political and parliamentary career to try to prevent the spread of socialism and central planning.[3] Instead, Hayek suggested the establishment of a body which could engage in research and reach the intellectuals with reasoned argument.[3]

In June 1955, The Free Convertibility of Sterling by George Winder was published, with Fisher signing the foreword as Director of the IEA.[3] In November 1955, the IEA’s Original Trust Deed was signed by Fisher, John Harding and Oliver Smedley.[3] Ralph Harris (later Lord Harris) began work as part-time General Director in January 1957.[3] He was joined in 1958 by Arthur Seldon who was initially appointed Editorial Advisor and became the Editorial Director in 1959.[3]

The Social Affairs Unit was established in December 1980 as an offshoot of the Institute of Economic Affairs in order to carry the IEA's economic ideas onto the battleground of sociology.[4] "Within a few years the Social Affairs Unit became independent from the IEA, acquiring its own premises."[4] In 1986 the IEA created a Health and Welfare Unit to focus on these aspects of social policy.[4][3]

Andrew Marr called the Institute "undoubtedly the most influential think tank in modern British history".[5]


Arthur Seldon proposed a series of Papers for economists to explore the market approach to the issues of the day.[3] 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.[3] A large number of other titles has been published in association with trade and university presses.[3]

The Journal of Economic Affairs was first published in October 1980 and continues to be published to the present day. IEA publications are sold throughout the world – reprinted and translated into over twenty-five languages. In the UK, many IEA titles have become mandatory in university and classroom reading lists.[2]

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.

The Institute's research activities are aided by an international Academic Advisory Council and a panel of Honorary Fellows. 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.

Twelve economists engaged in the IEA's work have gone on to win the Nobel Memorial 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, while the work of Nobel Prize Winners is reprinted in The Road to Economic Freedom with a foreword by Margaret Thatcher. The IEA has also published research in areas such as business ethics, economic development, education, pensions, regulation, taxation and transport.

In September 2008, the Institute started the IEA blog.

In October 2009, the IEA appointed Mark Littlewood as its Director General with effect from 1 December 2009.[1]


The IEA holds a range of events throughout the year at its 2 Lord North Street headquarters, from book launches and debates to conferences and lectures (including the Annual Hayek Lecture), Working Lunches and Political Economy Suppers.[6] The 20th Annual Hayek Lecture was delivered on 5 July 2011 by Robert Barro of Harvard University.[7]

IEA's Shadow Monetary Policy Committee (SMPC) was established in July 1997. The SMPC has met on a monthly basis since then. The decisions and minutes of the SMPC are published a few days before the Bank of England’s own interest rate decision each month.[8]


The IEA is a registered educational and research charity.[9] The organisation states that 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."[2] It is "independent of any political party or group."[2]

According to left-wing journalist George Monbiot, it may have received funding from Donors Trust through the American Friends of the Institute of Economic Affairs, like many other free market think tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Hudson Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Reason Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, the Mont Pelerin Society and the Discovery Institute.[10] According to The Guardian, it received donations from British American Tobacco in 2011 and 2012 as well as from Japan Tobacco International and Imperial Tobacco.[11] In February 2015, Transparify, a Georgia-based organization funded by the left-wing billionaire George Soros, suggested the IEA was one of the three most discreet think tanks in the UK when it comes to its donors, alongside the International Institute for Strategic Studies and LSE IDEAS.[12]

Notable people[edit]

Personnel and fellows[edit]

Honorary Fellows[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Robert Walmsley, Interview: Mark Littlewood, Cherwell, 26 January 2014
  2. ^ a b c d "about the IEA". Institute of Economic Affairs. Retrieved 2009-10-29. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l IEA: Chronology
  4. ^ a b c Muller, Christopher (1996). "The Institute of Economic Affairs: Undermining the Post-War Consensus". Contemporary British History 10 (1): 88–110 [p. 102]. doi:10.1080/13619469608581370. 
  5. ^ Andrew Marr BBC 2007 A History of Modern Britain
  6. ^ IEA: Events
  7. ^ IEA: Annual IEA Hayek Memorial Lecture
  8. ^ < IEA Shadow Monetary Policy Committee
  9. ^ The Institute of Economic Affairs Limited, Registered Charity no. 235351 at the Charity Commission
  10. ^ George Monbiot, The educational charities that do PR for the rightwing ultra-rich, The Guardian, 18 February 2013
  11. ^ Jamie Doward, Health groups dismayed by news 'big tobacco' funded rightwing thinktanks, The Guardian, 1 June 2013
  12. ^ Sarah Neville, British think-tanks ‘less transparent about sources of funding’, Financial Times, February 17, 2015

Further reading[edit]

  • Bosanquet, Nick (1983). Economics: After the New Right. Boston: Kluwer-Nijhoff. pp. 79–87. ISBN 0-89838-135-5. 
  • Cockett, Richard (1995). Thinking the unthinkable: think-tanks and the economic counter-revolution, 1931–1983. Fontana Press. ISBN 0-00-637586-3. 

External links[edit]