Liberty Matters

You Are the Cause of All My Troubles!


Every think tank reflects a range of factors or interests, and it is hard to think of two that are identical.  The interests of the founder, the proclivities of the board, the market in available talent, the desires of investors, the prevailing climate of ideas – all and much more come into play and produce very different outcomes.  And they come at matters via different routes.  Recently, for example, Washington D.C.’s The Heritage Foundation added a separate action organization; so a think tank, or policy shop, deeply influenced by the IEA (its founder/president Dr E. J. Feulner Jr. has often spoken fondly of his year at the IEA in the late 1960s and what he learned by working for Arthur) rightly or wrongly adds a campaigning dimension.  Meanwhile in London, The Taxpayers’ Alliance (founded by IEA alumnus Matthew Elliott), which is clearly a campaigning group and says so loud and clear and up front, develops an in-house think tank dimension such that at a November 2013 meeting of the Atlas Network in New York City it won the $100,000 Templeton Prize against competition from all around the world.
It would be wrong to say that Arthur and Ralph were totally free of vested interests and completely immune from the thrill of a short-run victory.  In the early days Ralph toured advertising agencies collecting financial support for studies on their role in a free society.  At that time the industry was much vilified in intellectual circles.  And earlier in this conversation I referenced Basil Yamey’s Resale Price Maintenance and Shoppers’ Choice, which quickly and directly led to a bill that created the entire supermarket industry as well as the Virgin empire.  The minister who promoted the bill came to lunch at the IEA when he was under severe attack on all sides, pointed at Arthur and bellowed, “You are the cause of all my troubles!”  It has been estimated that the resulting law so annoyed small shopkeepers (who would tend to vote for the Conservative Party) that they abstained from voting in the 1964 general election in sufficient numbers as to hand victory to Labor, which would rule for the next six years.
It’s all a bit like baking a cake or a pastry.  Try making a lemon meringue pie in Guatemala.  You will fail as there are no lemons in that country, only limes.
Finally, let’s bring this back to Arthur.
He loved young inquisitive minds and was famous for his Sunday afternoon tea parties in the garden of his and Marjorie’s home in Kent, a short train ride from central London. There was always a generous sprinkling of such youngsters there being prodded and pushed along by Arthur about their intellectual or career paths.  He even published many of them in a volume, The New Right Enlightenment,[17] from his own private publishing firm and set up the IEA’s publication The Journal of Economic Affairs specifically to give newer younger talent a spot to spread its wings. 
He would, I am sure, have reveled in the company of the many young intellectual entrepreneurs recently assembled by the Atlas Network in New York City.
[17] The New Right Enlightenment (London: Economic and Literary Books, 1985).