The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) is a cesspit brimming with rancid cheerleaders for soulless anti-society free market thuggery.
(Note: This blog first published in 2016; analysis of IEA’s activities since is added later – most recent update in October 2022)
IEA main objectives are the promotion of an extreme free-market approach to fiscal funding of essential public services and the removal of all workers’ rights. The purpose of both is to feed chancers, gamblers, confidence tricksters and con artists at the expense of the majority of the people. The strongest theme in IEA literature and policy is support for the destruction of the NHS.
The tone of IEA literature is part pseudo-academic claptrap, part alt-right blog. It is lazy verbal trickery that pretends to analyse an issue and, remarkably, always concludes that less public funding and/or gross reductions in employees’ rights are the solution. Imagine the Kray Twins employing a conman to explain how a violent protection racket is a desirable objective for those being “protected.” There is arrogant, smug heartlessness throughout.
An example of IEA’s political ideology and of its mode of communication is Kristian Niemietz‘s plea for the NHS to be dismantled. His paper Universal Healthcare without the NHS (published in 2016) pretends to be an academic study of the history of the NHS with comparisons to health services in other countries. It is a concoction of selective analyses and imaginative deductions designed to attain the conclusion that all NHS services should be given away wholly to private parasites. The fact that he calls patients “consumers” tells you all you need to know. In an accompanying blog that acts as a pointer to the paper – Niemietz blog, he displays the petulant attitudes that permeate IEA’s mode of communication: “I decided to make life a bit easier for the Twittermob that normally comes out, wielding the virtual pitchforks, when I publish something on healthcare,” Niemietz states followed by a selection of short retorts he has encountered.
Five years later Niemietz published Wizards of OZ? for IEA wherein he presented a conclusion-driven comparison of Australian and UK healthcare systems. Australia’s insurance-based system is not a failed system but his comparison of medical advantages and positive statistical analysis of one system over another failed, deliberately, to acknowledge deliberate underfunding leading to deliberate destruction of NHS by successive Tory governments. An insurance-based system for funding healthcare can work if sufficient protections are contained within it, and it is an alternative method for publicly-funding healthcare, but there is no logic to switching from tax-based funding to insurance-based funding in UK. Why do the likes of IEA campaign for it? It is significant that Niemietz’s only faux argument in favour of such a change are the current problems with NHS and he knows those problems are entirely imposed by anti-NHS governments.
Destruction of NHS by Tories is accompanied by coercion to use expensive privateer healthcare instead. Recent (early 2022) Tory Heath Secretary Sajid Javid introduced a scheme/scam where patients who are waiting for vital treatment from NHS are given the “choice” to go private instead. That is how privatisation of healthcare is being enacted. The racketeers exist. They do not need to buy, or be given, NHS. They just wait for the government to destroy it and then accept the patients. Niemietz is aware of the process but he chose to pretend to not know and he wrote Repeat Prescription in May 2022 that bemoaned “repeated” claims by supporters of NHS of its imminent privatisation when, as he asserts, no privatisation occurred subsequently.
One of IEA’s tactics is to publish collections of extreme ideas from libertarians to simultaneously promote devastating economic extremism while maintaining faux distance from the ideas. The introduction to Ten Ways To Supercharge Left Behind Britain (10 Ways) states “IEA Current Controversies papers are designed to promote discussion of economic issues and the role of markets in solving economic and social problems. As with all IEA publications, the views expressed are those of the author and not those of the Institute (which has no corporate view), its managing trustees, Academic Advisory Council, or other senior staff.” Every word of this quote is dishonest.
The chairman of IEA is Neil Record. He founded and chairs Record plc, a company that creates wealth for its clients via currency gambling and hedging. That is, a company rammed right in the decaying anus of exploitative capitalism.
Director General Mark Littlewood pops up on TV and radio frequently. He is deliberately childishly provocative.
Other faces that might be seen in the media are listed here: IEA Staff.
As the table on page 6 of a Transparify report into think-tank donor transparency shows, IEA keeps its financial backers secret. Alongside three other cheerleaders for public services destruction, Adam Smith Institute, Centre for Policy Studies and Policy Exchange, IEA doesn’t want the public, who are the target of its ideology, to know which tax-dodging organised international thieves and fraudsters are employing PR machines like the IEA.
Links to brief descriptions of other right-wing think-tanks: UK think-tanks