Institute of Economic Affairs

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The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) is the United Kingdom's oldest free-market think tank, founded in 1955.[1] The IEA's mission is to explain free-market views to the public, including politicians, journalists, and faculty.[2]

It achieves its objectives primarily through the publication of research into how classical liberal ideas can help solve social and economic problems. The organisation also holds regular events at its London headquarters, which bring together opinion formers with an interest in free-market ideas.

The IEA has also promoted the global spread of classical liberal ideas through its support for a network of sister think tanks in more than thirty countries around the world.

In the last decade, the Institute has focused significant effort on building a strong online presence, through the IEA website and the IEA blog.


The Institute was inspired by a meeting between its founder Antony Fisher and the great Nobel-Prize-winning Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek just after World War II. Hayek advised Fisher to steer clear of direct involvement in politics. Instead, he should focus on influencing the intellectual climate, which at that time was dominated by socialism.

Fisher recruited two young economists, Ralph Harris and Arthur Seldon, to run the organisation. Initially seen as outsiders, by the 1960s Harris and Seldon began to influence key figures within the British Conservative Party.

These included Margaret Thatcher, who derived many of her ideas about economic reform from IEA publications. The Institute published work by the world's leading free-market economists, including Milton Friedman as well as Friedrich Hayek, and brought their radical ideas to a wider audience.

Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1979. She then undertook a radical policy program based on increasing economic freedom and fighting socialism.

The influence of the Institute of Economic Affairs on Margaret Thatcher and also her political allies such as Ronald Reagan led respected commentator Andrew Marr to describe the IEA as "undoubtedly the most influential think tank in modern British history."[3]


  3. Marr, A. (2006) A History of Modern Britain