The Economist’s “Open Future” Essay Competition

The Economist is holding an essay competition that may be of interest to the foundation’s current students and interns, as well as our alumni:

The Economist has launched the Open Future initiative to re-state the case for the values of classical liberalism, that is, political, economic and social freedom, to address the challenges of the 21st century. We want this exploration of ideas to involve our critics as well as our supporters, and to engage a young audience in particular.

As part of the initiative we are holding five essay contests, based on the five Open Future themes (Borders, Ideas, Markets, Society and Progress). Each contest is open to people between 16 and 25 years old. Essays should be no longer than 1,500 words; only one submission is allowed per theme (though entrants may submit essays on more than one theme). The deadline for submissions is July 15th 2018. Please read the formal terms of the competition.

Essays should answer the question by taking a stance and making a case based on argument and facts. The best essay in each category will be published on The Economist’s Open Future website and the winners will be invited to attend one of the three Open Future Festival events, to be held simultaneously in Hong Kong, London and New York on Saturday September 15th 2018. The Economist will pay for airfare and accommodation; if the winner is under 18, we’ll pay for a guardian to accompany the winner as well.

Of course The Economist is hardly neutral on these subjects: we are advocates of free trade, open societies and technological progress. But that should not discourage those who disagree with our opinions. We will select the best essays based on the quality of their arguments, not the extent to which they align with our views. Though good writing is important, judges will make allowances for those for whom English is not their native language.

Essayists should e-mail their submissions by July 15th 2018, with the subject “Open Future essay contest” plus the theme category, to: OpenFuture@Economist.com. Please send only one, final submission.

The essay questions and descriptions associated with the five Open Future themes are:

Open Markets

Essay question: What is the best way to improve competition in modern capitalism?

Description: In economics textbooks, markets are supposed to be competitive. In reality there is growing evidence that markets are becoming ever less so. From tech to airlines to banking, the biggest companies are growing more dominant. Ownership of many firms is more concentrated. Profits have soared relative to workers’ pay. And executive pay has soared relative to that of workers. All this suggests modern capitalism may do more to benefit insiders than foster competition. What is the best way to reverse this trend?

Open Borders

Essay question: Does immigration strengthen or undermine tolerance?

Description: Citizens in Western democracies have fought bitterly in recent years over the importance of borders and migration. Many regard the free movement of people as an expression of liberal ideals. But others worry that new arrivals bring values that are at odds with these ideals and place a burden on welfare states, undermining the sense of solidarity on which they depend. So is immigration a boon or a threat for liberal societies?

Open Ideas

Essay question: What should a commitment to free speech on campus entail?

Description: The current furore on university campuses might be summarised as a contest to control which ideas are worth serious consideration, and which are not. Campuses in America and Britain are increasingly divided on this issue. Openness of inquiry inevitably generates uncomfortable discussions plainly offensive to some. Should this be a concern that the university heeds? If so, how should it decide if an idea is off-limits, and what conditions ought to be imposed on such ideas?

Open Society

Essay question: Has political correctness gone too far?

Description: Gender-neutral toilets, quotas for women on boards, affirmative action at universities, #MeToo, banning words that cause offence. The desire to create more inclusive, equitable and open societies has certainly made it easier to be someone other than a white, straight, able-bodied male than it was 50 years ago. But some fear that this drive for tolerance has turned into an (illiberal) imposition of liberal values. They fear that political correctness has gone too far. Has it?

Open Progress

Essay question: Do the benefits of artificial intelligence outweigh the risks?

Description: The late physicist Stephen Hawking warned that artificial intelligence (AI) was “either the best or the worst thing ever to happen to humanity”. The technology promises to solve complex problems and unlock scientific mysteries. But it could also imperil jobs, make possible new kinds of weapons—and even develop beyond human control. Are such fears justified? How feasible is it to control the scale and speed of AI’s spread? And do the benefits outweigh the risks?

Again, do read the terms of the competition. We are a global organisation and we operate a strict privacy policy around the world. How we will use your personal data is spelled out in the terms of the competition, and how we handle personal data more generally is in our privacy policy.

By entering the competition, you agree to the terms of the competition, and you agree to us processing and using your personal data for the purposes described – including to administer the contest, to attribute winning entries and runners-up publicly, and for promotional purposes. We won’t use your details to market other services to you unless you specifically give us permission to do so.

Good luck!

More details can be found on The Economist‘s website here.

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