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From the future of capitalism to trade wars: economics events at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas

What is the future of capitalism in an age of digital innovation and populism? What is the likely impact of incipient trade wars? How can we tackle increasing job insecurity and low pay? These and more questions form the basis of a series of talks on Economics at this year’s Cambridge Festival of Ideas.

With talks by Sir Paul Collier, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford, and by venture capitalist and economist Bill Janeway, author of the recently published revised edition of 'Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy', as well as discussions involving speakers such as author James Bloodworth and economist Meredith Crowley, this year’s Festival focuses on some of the most challenging issues facing economists.

The Festival runs from 15th to 28th October and most events are free.

In this year’s Hermann Bondi Lecture, The future of capitalism: facing the new anxieties, Sir Paul Collier will outline how rigorous social science can both explain and address new anxieties raised by the economic divergences - spatial, educational and international - that have arisen since the 1980s. Drawing on his new book, published in October, he will suggest how capitalism can be saved from itself and how we can free ourselves from the baggage of the 20th century. 17th October.

While in Doing capitalism in the innovation economy, Bill Janeway will revisit his classic book, which was updated and republished in May, and explain how the digital revolution, sponsored by the state and funded by speculation, has matured to attack the authority, and even the legitimacy, of governments. He will warn that the populist response in the west, especially in the United States, opens the door for China to seize leadership of the innovation economy from America. 17th October


Economics-related debates at the Festival include:

Trade wars: deal or no deal. An expert panel will discuss what the likely impact of trade wars is and how the tension between protectionism and free trade has played out in history. With Dr Marc-William Palen, historian at the University of Exeter and author of 'The 'Conspiracy' of Free Trade: The Anglo-American Struggle over Empire and Economic Globalisation, 1846–1896'; Dr Meredith Crowley, a Reader in International Economics in the Faculty of Economics at the University of Cambridge; Dr Minako Morita-Jaeger, trade consultant and Associate Fellow at the UK Trade Policy Observatory; and Dr Lorand Bartels, Reader in International Law in the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge. 20th October. Dr Bartels said: “Because of the risk of trade wars, an enforceable rules-based international trading system is ever more important. The UK should be a strong supporter of the WTO, and should seek enforceable agreements with its trading partners. Customs unions are the best way of eliminating customs duties as well as the need to check that products come from within the customs union because all other products pay the same duty to enter the customs union.”

The future of work is a discussion of leading thinkers who will address whether the future of work is be one in which jobs become ever more precarious and robots take over or whether we can regulate to make the gig economy and artificial intelligence work in our favour. With James Bloodworth, author of Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain; Dr Alex Wood, a sociologist of work and employment at the University of Oxford; Dr Hatice Gunes, associate professor in the University of Cambridge's Computer Laboratory; and HR specialist and writer on the future of work Laetitia Vitaud. 20th October

The Festival includes events for all ages. Running the British economy, for instance, is an interactive event for school students studying economics. The student are divided into tea and have to take a series of decisions on government spending, taxation and monetary policy over a decade. Professor Tony Cockerill guides them through the game and discusses the relevance of the results to current economic analysis and policy formation. 17th October

The Festival sponsors and partners are St John’s College, Anglia Ruskin University, RAND Europe, University of Cambridge Museums and Botanic Garden, Cambridge Junction and Cambridge University Press. The Festival media partners are BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and Cambridge Independent.