Arthur Seldon was one of the most influential economists of the late twentieth century. His ideas were key to the changes in economic policies under Margaret Thatcher’s government and which spread to many other countries.
Seldon was for thirty years the editorial director of the Institute of Economic Affairs, where he directed a publishing programme which included some of the world’s most eminent economists, such as Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, advocating, among other things, less government intervention, control of inflation by monetary means, and reduced power for trades unions. Seldon was also a prolific author, and his Collected Works occupy seven volumes.
This new biography concentrates on Seldon’s intellectual contribution and traces the roots of his work from his childhood in the Jewish East End of London, where self-help and voluntary aid for the disadvantaged were the norm, through his time at the London School of Economics, where he was influenced by some of the leading economists of the 1930s, to his time at the IEA, where he worked in partnership with Ralph Harris.
Historians who look at think tanks usually write about their presidents or scholars. But Colin Robinson’s life of Arthur Seldon (1916–2005) is one of the few biographies that looks at a think-tank editor. Although Seldon was a prolific author, whose collected works fill seven volumes, his most important legacy was as cofounder and editorial director of Britain’s Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) from 1957 to 1988. While with the IEA Seldon edited over 350 books, many of which significantly influenced Margaret Thatcher and her allies in Britain’s free-market reforms of the 1980s. Arthur Seldon: A Life for Liberty substantially adds to our knowledge of this important figure.
Colin Robinson was a business economist for eleven years. He was then appointed to the Chair of Economics at the University of Surrey, Guildford, United Kingdom where he founded the Department of Economics and is now Emeritus Professor. For many years he has been associated with the London-based Institute of Economic Affairs and from 1992 to 2002 he was the IEA’s Editorial Director.