The Adam Smith Institute: The Free Market’s Praetorian Guard

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Science, Knowledge and Policy book series (SKP)


The Adam Smith Institute (ASI) is a small free-market think tank, mostly funded by private donations, that played a crucial role in the rise of neoliberal thought in Britain in the 1970–1980s. However, come 2008, they found that many of their ideas were increasingly challenged and believed to have caused the crisis by the left. They responded by mounting a spirited defence of deregulation, blaming the state, regulation, and central banks for the crash. As David Cameron’s austerity programme took hold, the ASI defended its implementation, if arguing it did not go far enough. In tandem, they sought to change their image as an overly-ideological organisation and their relatively marginal position in an ever more crowded centre-right. To achieve that, they began advocating for ‘Bleeding-heart Libertarianism’: the idea that free markets should be defended not for a priori reasons, but because they provide the greatest welfare for all.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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