Institute of Economic Affairs

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.

10 Ways To Enhance Exploitation
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 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.

“Freeports” or “investment zones” are a key objective of Tory government.  They are charter territories where all rights are absent including workers’ rights, tenants’ rights, right to protest, access to justice and the right to elect a governing administration.  They are handover of governance and control to corporate power.   In ‘Freeport UK’ Michael Bracken proposed the whole of UK should become a charter territory.  He said “the government should set the radical goal for the UK to be the most open market in the world” by “scrapping tariffs on imports and unilaterally recognising overseas countries’ product standards,” and “the UK’s points-based immigration system should be reviewed to enable greater flexibility for overseas businesses to establish operations in the UK to take advantage of new market opportunities.”  What he meant was 1) businesses, both British and overseas, should be able to employ people on very low wages with abject working conditions outside of UK and then ship products to UK with no import costs, and 2) same businesses to employ people in UK beyond any laws regarding working conditions, minimum wage or job security.  He depicted his plan as beneficial to “consumers.”  The only “consumers” who benefit would be exploitative corporate leaches.

Ralph Buckle’s proposal for removing costs for a “side-hustle” was presented blatantly as a scam.  In ‘Simplifying the side-hustle’ he invented a figure of “60%” of people he claimed would like to start their own business and then asked for all costs, including corporation tax, to be removed for such businesses.  His new business category “would be specifically aimed at those wishing to set up a small side hustle business.  A possible definition could include annual turnover under £50,000, profits under £10,000, no employees, and a maximum of three directors.”  Abuse of company registration – actively encouraged by the Tory government – led to hundreds of millions of pounds being handed to made-up businesses as part of the Covid-19 pandemic contracts scandal.  Buckle wants more of that and to make it cheaper.  “Companies in this category would pay no corporation tax.  Directors would have no tax liabilities.”  In typical IEA fashion he pretended his proposal was for people with small capital.  His real aim is to allow exploiters another loophole to avoid being taxed.

Michael Dines claimed ‘Zoom Towns are the future – and we can make them happen.’  Via an invented interest in encouraging skilled professionals to leave cities and live and work in towns, Dines described a plan to sidestep local democracy and governance.  His town-based “Development Mutuals” will be “funded largely through private sector borrowing” and “each Mutual should have a charter setting out its core principles and goals: a requirement to enable growth, improve quality of life, keep housing affordable and maintain social cohesion.”  Dines did not mention local elected councils in his piece.

UK’s stock exchange is a playground for thieves and gamblers.  In ‘XChangeUK: why we need regional stock exchanges’ Rosemary Enright said city-based stock exchanges would “channel investment into regional businesses.  Local enterprises would grow, generating more employment, stemming the flow of talent and entrepreneurial skill to the South East.”  Her argument was nonsense because City Of London stock exchange is, in now way whatsoever, constrained in its dealings by geographical location of businesses whose stocks are traded thereat.  She claimed “entrepreneurs” do not have access to “brokers” to help with “investment” and, thus, “relocate to South East.”  The reality is “brokers” and “investors” do not care where a business is; all they care about is making money out of its operation.  The only reason to create regional stock exchanges is to bypass local democracy.

The theme of random scams that pretend to “level up” but are actually just further attacks on local democracy and further tax-dodging scams continued with Timothy Foxley’s ‘The Peoples Rebate’ that he described as “an unprecedented tax cut targeted
at the UK’s ‘left behind’ areas, to boost economic growth, living standards, and employment.”  He proposed that “high earners” receive up to “90%” rebate on their income tax to encourage them “to move to lower-income areas.”  Magically, that would make those areas more prosperous for everyone but he didn’t say how low earners already resident there would benefit given that house prices and other costs would rise significantly.

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.  Liz Truss handed a peerage to him.

Other faces that might be seen in the media are listed here: IEA Staff.

Despicable Donors
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-tanksUK think-tanks

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Institute of Economic Affairs

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