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Profile of the Institute of Economic Affairs

IEA Key people

The team includes Mark Littlewood, the Director General who started on the 1st December 2009.

Also Professor Philip Booth (Editorial & Programme Director) and Professor D R Myddelton (Chairman).

Basic philosophy

The IEA is the UK's original free-market think-tank, founded in 1955.  It dominated debate in the 1970s and 1980s but has not been a major player in UK public policy for more than a decade.  Under its new Director General the Trustees hope that that might change.

Some are concerned that Mark Littlewood's appointment will represent a change of direction for an institution associated with the Thatcherite revolution of the 1980s. This is because Littlewood was a Liberal Democrat (he tore up his Party card for his new job) and was once Head of Media for that party. More than that he is a supporter of the European Union project at a time when most of Britain's centre right is avowedly Eurosceptic. Littlewood's belief in the free market is nonetheless staunch and he wrote an article attacking the minimum wage shortly after he had been appointed. Plenty of Lib Dems were indignant at his classical liberalism and were pleased to see him go.

The IEA's goal is to explain free-market ideas to the public, including politicians, students, journalists, businessmen, academics and others interested in public policy. To some extent they are above the immediate fray. They "seek to change the climate of opinion in which politicians debate policy – it is not our main role to try to change day-to-day thinking of party politicians."

Recent achievements

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 an eminent panel of Honorary Fellows.

IEA publications are sold throughout the world, reprinted and translated into over twenty-five languages. At the end of 2005 the Institute had subscribers in over 55 countries, sales in 65+ countries and conference attendees from over 50 countries. At home many IEA titles have become mandatory in university and classroom reading lists. Large numbers of translation and reprint requests so that each IEA book can potentially find its way into countries as different as China, Vietnam, Italy, Mexico, the US and many others to educate opinion leaders overseas. Naturally the internet has been a great advance in disseminating their material among students and internationally. There have been hundreds of thousands of downloads of IEA monographs from their website.

Since 1974 the IEA has played an active role in developing similar institutions across the globe. Today there exists a worldwide network of over one hundred related institutions in nearly eighty countries. All are independent but share the IEA's broad mission.

The IEA helped to highlight the cost of public sector pensions. Their paper “Sir Humphrey’s legacy” was originally published in Nov 2006, but has been updated since. Combined with a sustained programme of events, this has helped shape media, public and political awareness of the public sector pension crisis.

The IEA’s recent debate on the science and economics of climate change on Nov 23rd brought together scientists and economists with different and conflicting views. The event was attended by well over 200 people and its speakers featured widely in the media.

In October of this year, Elinor Ostrom and Oliver E. Williamson became the 11th and 12th economists associated with the IEA and its work to win the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. A number of their ideas were referenced by Conservative leader David Cameron in his Hugo Young speech last month.

Future plans

Forthcoming publications include a major research paper into the high compliance costs of taxation and an introduction to the work of Ludwig von Mises (with particular reference to the relevance of von Mises to current government policy on the NHS and financial crisis).

Budget and approximate staff numbers

The budget is around £900,000 a year. There are eight full time and five part time members of staff.

Contact details


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