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 London, United Kingdom, which promotes free market ideas. Founded in 1955, its stated 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]

History & Founding[edit]

In 1945, Antony Fisher read a summary of The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek.[2] 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. Instead, Hayek suggested the establishment of a body which could engage in research and reach the intellectuals with reasoned argument.

In June 1955, The Free Convertibility of Sterling by George Winder was published, with Fisher signing the foreword as Director of the IEA. In November 1955, 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.


Andrew Marr called the Institute "undoubtedly the most influential think tank in modern British history".[4]

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.[5] "Within a few years the Social Affairs Unit became independent from the IEA, acquiring its own premises."[5] In 1986 the IEA created a Health and Welfare Unit to focus on these aspects of social policy.[5][6]


The IEA is a registered educational and research charity.[7] 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. It claims to be independent of any political party or group."[1]

Although the organisation does not disclose their sources of funding, they have been funded by tobacco companies including British American Tobacco, Philip Morris International and Japan Tobacco International since 1963, which led to criticism due to their various positions favorable to the tobacco industry. The IEA's refusal to reveal their current donors, while supporting views favourable to the tobacco industry, has led to criticism from George Monbiot.[8]

In 2002, a leaked letter from a prominent member of the IEA, Roger Scruton revealed that he had failed to declare payments of £54,000 p.a. from Japan tobacco while publishing an attack through the IEA on the World Health Organization's attempts to decrease tobacco use. In the letter he asked Japan Tobacco for this amount to be increased to £66,000 p.a., in exchange for which "we would aim to place an article every two months in one or other of the WSJ [Wall Street Journal], the Times, the Telegraph, the Spectator, the Financial Times, the Economist, the Independent or the New Statesman." In response the IEA stated that they would change their policies to avoid a recurrence of such a conflict of interest.[9]

He also reports that the American Friends of the IEA, whose sole purpose is to provide funds for the IEA, has received $215,000 from the two secretive funds as of 2010.[10]


Arthur 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 has been published in association with trade and university presses.[6]

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.[1]

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.


The IEA holds a range of events throughout the year at its 2 Lord North Street headquarters,[11] from book launches and debates to conferences and lectures (including the Annual Hayek Lecture), Working Lunches and Political Economy Suppers.

The 20th Annual Hayek Lecture was delivered on 5 July 2011 by Robert Barro of Harvard University.[12]

Shadow Monetary Policy Committee[edit]

The Shadow Monetary Policy Committee (SMPC) was established in July 1997, immediately following the creation of the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee. 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.

Key personnel:

  • Chairman – David B. Smith, Visiting Professor, University of Derby.
  • Secretary – Professor Kent Matthews, Julian Hodge Professor of Money and Banking, Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University.
  • IEA representative – Professor Philip Booth, Editorial and Programme Director of the IEA.

Other members of the Committee are: Roger Bootle (Deloitte and Capital Economics Ltd), Tim Congdon (International Monetary Research Ltd.), Jamie Dannhauser (Lombard Street Research), Anthony J Evans (ESCP Europe), John Greenwood (Invesco Asset Management), Ruth Lea (Arbuthnot Banking Group), Andrew Lilico (Europe Economics), Patrick Minford (Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University), Gordon Pepper (Lombard Street Research and Cass Business School, City University London), Akos Valentinyi (Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University), Peter Warburton (Economic Perspectives Ltd), Mike Wickens (University of York and Cardiff Business School) and Trevor Williams (Lloyds TSB Corporate Markets).

Notable personnel and fellows[edit]

Notable Honorary Fellows[edit]


See also[edit]


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]