The IEA is honoured to co-host this forum with the Atlas Network. For over 60 years, the IEA has been promoting the intellectual case for a free economy, lower taxes, freedom in education, health and welfare and lower levels of regulations.
We are tremendously proud of our rich history. Shortly after the Second World War, Sir Antony Fisher read economist F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. Fisher feared that whilst liberation was being celebrated, the West was turning its back on capitalism and that the “command and control” approach of wartime was now to be the model for peacetime economic organization. The story goes that Fisher tracked down Hayek at the London School of Economics, hoping to receive the latter’s blessing to enter a career in politics. But Hayek warned Fisher against such an approach and instead advised that if he truly wanted to change the world, he should avoid partisan politics and instead seek to win the battle of ideas.
Antony Fisher went on to establish the Institute of Economic Affairs in 1955, having met with success in business as a chicken farmer in the east of England. He employed the help of Ralph Harris, the IEA’s first Director General, and Arthur Seldon, the IEA’s first Editorial Director. For many years, they pursued a lonely and – many thought – forlorn mission. The prevailing consensus was that vast swathes of economic activity should be managed by the state, not by free men and women. But, slowly and surely, they began to win the argument. The case for abolishing exchange controls and privatising many state run industries helped form the Thatcher revolution. Indeed, Margaret Thatcher said of the IEA “They were the few, but they were right and they saved Britain.”
Fisher went on to become one of the most influential background players in the global rise of free market organisations in the latter half of the 20th century, helping to found the Atlas Network, Manhattan Institute, Pacific Research Institute, and several groups that are now part of the State Policy Network in the USA.
Today, our mission remains what it always has been – 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.