Institute of Economic Affairs

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

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The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) is a London-based, influential, right-wing think tank. It is part of a very wide international network of similar organisations, offering financial, operational and strategic support to a large number of these. Among many other groups, via its founders Antony Fisher, Ralph Harris, and Arthur Seldon, it spawned the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, the University of Buckingham, and the International Policy Network, which the IEA appears to fund and run directly. The IEA manages the funding of the Centre for Research into Post-Communist Economies [2]

The IEA enjoyed its highest influence during the right-wing Tory administration of Margaret Thatcher. Milton Friedman believes the IEA's intellectual influence was so strong that "the U-turn in British policy executed by Margaret Thatcher owes more to him (i.e., Fisher) than any other individual." [3]

The IEA describe their mission as being " improve public understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society, with particular reference to the role of markets in solving economic and social problems."


In 1945 Antony Fisher went to the London School of Economics to see F. A. Hayek. Fisher shared Hayek's belief in the dangers growing government power presented for the future. He was determined to embark on a political and parliamentary career in order to shift discussion and policy away from the prevailing consensus on planning and Keynesian economics. Hayek dissuaded Fisher from politics by arguing that the decisive influence in the battle of ideas rested with intellectuals, and hence, the way forward would be to establish a body which could engage in research and influence 'intellectual' opinion in order to win over the opinion of those in the universities, the schools and the media.

Ten years after that initial meeting with Hayek, Fisher was financially in a position to create the research institute they had discussed. Ralph Harris [later appointed Lord Harris] and Arthur Seldon were instrumental in establishing the IEA.

The IEA's goal is to explain free-market ideas to the public, including politicians, students, journalists, businessmen, academics and anyone interested in public policy.

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. 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 lookout for ways of reducing the government's role in our lives.

The IEA's main activity is a programme of researching and publishing books (up to 20 a year) and a quarterly journal on various public policy issues. The IEA usually commissions outside authors to do the work, though some is done in-house by IEA staffers. The IEA holds an extensive series of conferences, seminars, lectures and working lunches to discuss its themes (50-80 events a year). There is also a student outreach programme.

The IEA is a registered educational and research charity. 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 independent of any political party. [from IEA website:]

The IEA website boasts that the organisation has played a major role in the proliferation of conservative think tanks around the world. "Since 1974 the IEA has played an active role in developing similar institutions across the globe. Today there exists a world-wide network of over one hundred institutions in nearly eighty countries. All are independent but share in the IEA's mission," its website states. [4]

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Former personnel

Contact information

Institute of Economic Affairs,
2 Lord North Street,
Westminster, London, SW1P 3LB
Phone: 020 7799 8900
Fax: 020 7799 2137
Email: iea AT

External Articles


  1. "[1]"