Thursday, October 29, 2009

IEA dies

Tom Harrington spots that the Institute of Economic Affairs, a rare voice of sanity in the UK, has just committed Cato-Institute-Style hari-kiri by appointing an EU-loving Westminster village insider as its leader. (Just to let you know the man's full quality, he is a former media director for the socialist 'Liberal Democrats'.)

Oh dear.

That'll serve the IEA right for being so physically close to the Hydra's head in Westminster.

The Ludwig von Mises Institute is in Auburn for a reason, and it ain't the climate. It's to make sure that they don't get contaminated by the evil ring of power 'Inside the Beltway'.

Perhaps the IEA should take the same medicine, before we lower its coffin into the ground? (Though perhaps it's already too late.)

Come to Henley On Thames, in Fair Ithilien, chaps. Get yourselves away from that Mordor smog inside the Westminster Mountains of Shadow.


Tom Harrington said...

From what I read it seems there was much angst among the IEA that they had become less and less 'relevant'.

To appreciate the pointlessness of chasing 'relevancy' they should have read this blog post by Tom DiLorenzo:

It was written shortly after the House of Representatives, then controlled by the Republicans, passed the $700 billion bank bailout package, later signed of course by a Republican President, and supported by the Republican Party Presidential nominee.

Steven said...

I receive the IEA email newsletter, though it rarely contains anything of any interest to me. Sad really - considering I am British, live in Britain, and appreciate the importance of liberty and sound economics.

I think they do need to "reach out", but not by employing a liberal democrat to help them find friends in Westminster. They might want to revisit the goal they set themselves:

"The IEA's goal is to explain free-market ideas to the public, including politicians, students, journalists, businessmen, academics and anyone interested in public policy."

So far: FAIL.

Richard Wellings said...

I think this post is unduly negative. Mark is a committed libertarian who, for example, co-founded No2ID, which campaigns against ID cards and the growing police state. In his time at the LibDems he tried hard to encourage the party to rediscover its true 'liberal' (i.e. Whig) roots (e.g. by lowering taxes and ending its support for the nanny state). Mark's first rate media skills will help promote free-market ideas to a much wider audience.

The IEA has always been a broader church than, say, the Mises Institute, but it will continue to publish radical material from the Austrian School as well as libertarian books (e.g. Prohibitions) that are far outside the political mainstream.

not an economist said...

Tbh honest I tend to find the Mises Inst and the blogs of may of its alumni far more stimulating than the IEA these days. It lacks a certain edge.

Steven said...

I'm sorry Richard, but I struggle to believe that a genuinely committed libertarian could have been an important member of the liberal democrat party. And I don't see how the appointment will make the IEA any more relevant.

By coincidence, today I received an email from LvMI informing me of a forthcoming event: Economics for High-School Students. I can't imagine how excited I would've been to attend such an event at that age. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I'm not aware of anything similar going on at the IEA or anywhere in Britain.

Richard Wellings said...

Steven - I think libertarians face a dilemma of whether to try and push the main parties in our direction from the inside or to campaign from the outside. In the early 1980s, for example, many libertarians were members of the Federation of Conservative Students, choosing the insider strategy.

You are completely wrong regarding the student events. The IEA runs an annual conference for sixth-form economics students (in Oxford) and also supports Freedom Week at Cambridge. There are also several smaller student and teacher events held at the IEA every year. The IEA also provides free-market speakers for numerous events run by schools and university societies.

Jack Maturin said...

"Steven - I think libertarians face a dilemma of whether to try and push the main parties in our direction from the inside or to campaign from the outside."

It's been too long since I attended a Libertarian Alliance meeting (provisional wing) and hopefully I will put that right soon.

But if ever believers in liberty try to establish liberty 'from the inside (of the Beltway)', they always end up getting compromised by Leviathan.

To conquer Sauron you must not be tempted to wear the ring of power.

There are two fundamental forces at work in human history: Power and Market. This dialectic will keep operating forever, or possibly until the Market (or peaceful voluntary co-operation between people) finally expunges Power (the theft of resources from the Market by violent people). No doubt in this happy future land, Power will still keep arising again, and Market will have to keep putting it down, but if you co-opt yourself with Power, expect its immorality and greed to taint you, whether to a greater or to a lesser extent.

The corruption of Westminster, and all of those bars, and meals, and drinks, and being made to feel important by 'important' people, is a heady cocktail. Providing a 'liberal' fig-leaf to these people is more important than most realise. The Cato Institute does a splendid such job in the US, for the Neocons, Republicans, et al. It will be a real shame if the IEA ends up doing the same here, applying a veneer of liberal respectability to David Cameron, or even a future 'Lib-Lab' government.

You cannot change these people from the inside. Because they have no morality. Just greed, for power, for wealth, for sex, for glory, for fame, and for an easy life riding on the backs of others, sounding important, and having lots of fun playing politics.

They can dress it up in any way they like, but a few of us at least see them for what they are: cockroaches.

And the best policy for dealing with these crooks is to point out to everyone else what they are, to disengage from them, and to laugh at them.

We should stop voting for these people. We should pay them as little in tax as is safe to do so. We should stop listening to them. We should stop helping them become even more efficient at their theft and control. And we should not appoint former media organ heads of socialist parties to run our groups fighting for liberty against them.

What are we trying to gain liberty from? We are trying to gain liberty FROM Leviathan. Therefore to engage with Leviathan to gain this freedom from the same beast, strikes me as being a forlorn hope at best.

I don't think the IEA is currently in as much trouble as others, such as the Adam Smith Institute, but I think if they don't want to end up becoming a UK-Lite version of the dreadful Cato Institute, they should swap that Westminster address for one outside London, and certainly outside of 'The Village', as soon as possible.

And if the thought of this is too terrible to bear, being away from all those cocktail parties of 'Influence' then it's already too late.

The ring has ensnared you and you won't be able to throw it into the fire.

Steven said...


Of course we face a dilemma. But the dilemma does not have to mean compromising principles.

I'm glad the IEA puts on some student events, though I'm sure I'm not alone in not knowing anything about them.

The question the IEA might consider is this: is it wise to focus the majority of your time and money on things which most inquisitive students have little use for and have debatable impact?

I'm willing to accept that putting the arguments out there in the political sphere has the potential to do some good (or at least to help to slow down the decline). But is this strategy working? Do any of the major political parties care at all? In my experience they care only about getting votes from people. People who, more than ever, have no idea what sound economics and a respect for liberty even mean.

The Mises Institute are the most extreme outsiders I know of, and yet their popularity and influence is growing beyond anything I see in the UK. From where I'm standing there is huge gap in the UK market for a freedom-loving organisation to engage and influence the public, and by extension the political system.

Just sayin..

Jack Maturin said...

We Misesians are not extreme. We simply don't wish to live under the thumb of criminals any longer.

The popularity of the Mises Institute is growing because it has a completely coherent world view, backed up by philosophy, historical revisionism, economics, and ethics. The entire package is solid all the way through, from front to back, with absolutely no compromise at any point.

Yes, there are some woollier off-shoots (e.g. Hayek), but even the woolly off-shoots are brilliant.

Misesianism is also a continuous tendril in a long thread of thought, from Aristotle, through Thomas Aquinas, through the Spanish Scholastics, then the Frenchmen of Turgot, Say, and Bastiat, through to Menger, Bohm-Bauwerk, Mises, and then Rothbard. Fortunately, it has now reached a flowering point where no one person is 'The Austrian', though several spring to mind such as Hoppe, Woods, Schiff, Hulsmann, Rockwell, Paul, Salerno, Kinsella, and quite a few others.

But the root of it all is economics. Without economics, then we're just talking about hemlines and the weather.

That's why it is important the IEA tries to save itself, rather than get sucked into the Westminster mincing machine, providing politicians with the cloak of 'free-market' respectability.

It is no coincidence the socialists stole our original name, 'The Liberals', and talk forever in terms of freedom (freedom from want, freedom from discrimination), always using our words and our ideas, twisting them out of all recognition.

That is why they need to succour 'free-market' 'think-tanks', to wrap up state control in the language of liberal freedom.

To even look like they're falling into this trap is a terrible shame for the IEA.

Perhaps they ought to align themselves entirely behind the Misesian world view and become the English branch of the Mises Institute? It's got to be better than being run by a left-libertarian socialist.

Steven said...


Jack Maturin said...

Ok, just because Samizdata, which Alex Singleton writes for, has 6 million readers, and AngloAustria has just two readers, doesn't mean that Maturin Towers doesn't have the greater power! :-)

The curse of Maturin has struck again... ;-)