Introduction from IEA Director General, Mark Littlewood: "Barely a day now goes past without the unveiling of some new proposal to limit, restrict or further regulate the consumer choices in our economy. An entire industry has developed to press the government to roll out a seemingly endless raft of initiatives, typically justified by appeals to public health, looking after vulnerable adults or protecting minors. I am delighted that the Institute’s Christopher Snowdon will now be responsible for the IEA’s work in the field of “lifestyle economics” and will be subjecting these claims to rigorous scrutiny and analysis. Through detailed research, we will be seeking to show that free market mechanisms produce better outcomes than heavy-handed and restrictive state regulation."
In January 2013 the Institute of Economic Affairs established IEA Lifestyle Economics, with the purpose of investigating, researching and promoting public discussion of the heavy, and increasing, regulation and taxation of controversial lifestyle products in the UK.
Over the past 20 years there has been a steadily growing tide of regulation and tax targeted at products which are considered, or proven, to pose health risks to those who use them. Often, these regulations and restrictions appear to be based on very thin evidence with little or no consideration given to unintended consequences or perverse effects. The establishment of IEA Lifestyle Economics aims to provide a vigorous and academic rebuttal to the prevailing tide of regulation, tax and opinion against controversial lifestyle products.
The IEA is ideally placed to take up this particular area of research. As the first free market think tank in Europe the IEA has combated the curbs on economic and social freedom imposed by the government. The IEA has and continues to achieve this by:
producing and disseminating rigorous economic research
convening debates, seminars and discussion panels about controversial issues
In recent years the IEA has undertaken extensive research in the area of lifestyle products (view publications). This, combined with an increasing focus by the government and general public on the issues surrounding alcohol, tobacco, gambling, sugar, fat and soft drinks, has made the formation of the unit timely and necessary.
For a fuller explanation of why the IEA sees this as an important free market issue, see Christopher Snowdon's short essay Why Lifestyle Economics?