Last weekend (9/14-9/15), I traveled to London to attend the Economists’ Open Future Festival and meet alumni from my university UNC.
Economists’ Open Future Festival
General Overview: The festival celebrated the 175th anniversary of the Economist through a series of discussions/chats/interviews with individuals regarding the decline of classical liberal values in which the org was founded on. In a time of rising nationalism, populism, ideals of open trade, global cooperation, and integration are declining. These discussions featured many a cool folk. From Tony Blair, former prime minister of the UK, to Larry Summers, President of Harvard and renowned economist, and Minouche Shafik, Director of LSE.
- General Thoughts?
Steve Bannon: Given the fact that this was a festival in which people had to willingly buy tickets to attend and listen to discussions from a news source that advocated for classical liberal values, points made were often echoed by the audience. An echochamber… basically. That being said, the festival did invite Steve Bannon as a challenger, to discuss his thought processes behind Trump Administration/US strategy. Honestly, it sounded like (or at least I hope) that the policies he advocates for are truly what he believes to be best for the citizens of the United States — cracking down on illegal immigration, decreasing legal immigration, economic nationalism (rewriting NAFTA, instituting higher tariffs), opposing China. This sentiment is apparent throughout much of Europe with the largest anti-establishment anti-immigration party in Italy and continued support of Brexit, it seems like much of the world is fed up with global cooperation, EU restrictions, and is simply looking to do the best for its nations’ citizens. The interview was incredibly contentious with rising voices and countless interjections;
Highlight: Minouche Shafik, Larry Summers, and Adrian Wooldridge on “How can Liberalism Counter the Populist Threat”? Took this session to address the use and abuse of the “liberal elite,” this idea that there is a right set of cosmopolitan/politically correct values, built around norms and good behavior of the left. Conceptually, today we’ve built up a “righteous meritocracy” around the notion that hard work and smarts gets individuals to a position of status while those that are dumb and lazy… I enjoyed Summers’ point against the rise of identity politics in the US. The idea that your beliefs are rooted in one’s race/ethnicity is not only divisive, but harmful to recognizing a country as a unit. While extreme nativism is not the answer, some form of nationalism, or movement to identify the similarities of all citizens of a country is necessary in order to find common ground and make policy decisions that will positively impact a majority of the people. Some form of nationalism needs to be embraced.
What does it look like to have a society that is equal and multi-ethnic? A question I’ve considered a lot since living in Denmark. A capitalist country with substantial social welfare programs ensures that those unemployed or vulnerable are provided with adequate compensation is easy in a homogenous country with high levels of social trust. What happens when immigrants/diversity is thrown into the mix? Sweden, a nearby neighbor, is dealing with a rise in anti-immigration parties/policy because of the rising crime rates and burden on the welfare state allegedly caused by the influx of refugees, many of which come from Syria/Eritrea/Afghanistan.
Oh, and tourist highlight, I saw Wicked in the West End and had a classy Nandos chicken take out dinner. I may or may not have brought chips (fries), in my bag to snack on during the musical. Whoop-sie.
Alumni wisdom from project managers, investment bankers, and policy analysts provided for increased confusion for my future interest. Smigh.