“It may well be that the chemist or physiologist is right when he decides that he will become a better chemist or physiologist if he concentrates on his subject at the expense of his general education. But in the study of society exclusive concentration on a speciality has a peculiarly baneful effect: it will not merely prevent us from being attractive company or good citizens but may impair our competence in our proper field (…) [N]obody can be a great economist who is only an economist—and I am even tempted to add that the economist who is only an economist is likely to become a nuisance if not a positive danger.”
Friedrich Hayek. 1967. Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 123
The publication of the first volume of LSE’s new student journal, Studies in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, marks the graduation of the first cohort of students on the School’s novel, four-year BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). The journal’s name is a salute to a collection of essays by Friedrich Hayek, the famous philosopher, political thinker and Nobel laureate in economics who taught at LSE from 1931 to 1950. Hayek’s conviction that social scientists and social reformers stand to benefit from interdisciplinary training is the guiding idea of this degree. It provides rigorous training in all three disciplines, including the formal methods they use, up to an advanced undergraduate level. (In this, it stands apart from many other PPE degrees, which permit students to drop one of the three disciplines after the first year.) It also aims to help students become imaginative, independent, wide-ranging thinkers, who know how to draw on social science and moral principles to make compelling arguments. To this end, it includes a number of tri-disciplinary courses, including a Research Seminar taught by scholars with extensive policy-making experience; a Capstone Project, which includes research in teams on topics set by partners in international organizations, government, NGOs and the private sector; and PPE Applications, which covers a series of topical policy questions that can be answered effectively only by drawing on all three disciplines. This journal aims to publish some of the best work on these courses.
This issue is devoted to work from PPE Applications. This course made the production of sharp, engaging papers, improved by feedback from other students, part of ordinary coursework. Each student wrote three short formative papers on which they received comments from staff. They then chose one paper on which to receive a further round of double-blinded, constructively critical comments from at least two student reviewers. Finally, they submitted a revised version of this essay, along with a response to reviewers, as a summative assignment. Here, we collect some of the papers which stood out for their originality, interdisciplinarity, and careful reasoning.
The contributors draw on insights from economics, behavioural science, political science and political philosophy to address a range of fascinating questions. Carlo Bellomo and Alessandro Luciano discuss the case for so-called “sin taxes”; Cheryl Ting examines under which conditions participants in medical research are exploited; Emike Ahmed considers how to incentivise innovative research; Preeti Pasricha weighs Britain’s obligations to compensate India for colonial plunder; Ella Creamer and Valentin Wiesner engage with principles for making policy decisions under uncertainty; and Stefan Nielsen criticizes Martin Luther King’s criteria for deciding when laws are just. The final part of this issue, with contributions by Andrea Villalba Cuesta, Edgar Akopyan, Qiang Hua, Florence Roughton, and Lynne Sakr, is devoted to a symposium on a topic which sparked heated debate in our seminars: Leif Wenar’s proposal to ban sales of natural resources by highly repressive governments and to institute tariffs on countries who violate this ban.
I am grateful to the colleagues involved in bringing this journal to fruition: Liam Kofi Bright, Lucy Lambe, Ewan Rodgers and Lichelle Wolmarans. We hope it provides a showcase for our students’ work and thereby contributes to scholarly and public debate on matters of importance.