Charles Street Symposium

2012 events charles street symposium

The Charles Street Symposium is an annual forum for the world’s leading young researchers. Its aim is to bring together the best and brightest thinkers to address issues of relevance to public policy that are inadequately addressed and understood in existing research.

2014 Charles Street Symposium: Why Do Societies Prosper?

Applications for the 2014 Charles Street Symposium essay competition are now open. The 2014 Symposium will address the question, 'Why do societies prosper?'


The Legatum Institute publishes the annual Legatum Prosperity Index™ as part of its wider mission to understand what drives and restrains national success and individual flourishing. At present, the Legatum Institute is beginning an ambitious new research programme that looks at the role of free markets in promoting long term prosperity and the impact of the state on growth.

The Institute's arguments are not just economic, but philosophical and moral too.

As part of this programme, the Legatum Institute is looking at the structure of prosperity both at a national level: how culture, values and institutions shape the behaviour that drives both wealth and wellbeing in societies, and at the individual level: what does it mean to be a ‘prosperous individual’? The Institute's research is far-reaching—from the relationship between government size and growth, to Aristotle, Mill, Hayek and Bradley. The Charles Street Symposium seeks to canvass the opinions of established and emerging thinkers.

Research Areas and Suggested Questions

As part of the essay competition the Legatum Institute is seeking submissions that address questions in the following areas:

The successes and failures of traditional economic models in explaining growth and prosperity

  • Explanations of economic growth can be broadly classed into one of three perspectives; neoclassical growth models, endogenous growth theory and a focus on institutions as fundamental determinants of growth. What are some of the key determinants of growth left out of these perspectives and how can they be measured?
  • The difficulty of explaining growth at the frontier of economic development can perhaps be addressed by studying historical periods of rapid economic growth. During periods such as the creation of the Atlantic economy, or the industrial revolution, how did changes in ideas, technologies or institutions lead to increases in prosperity?

The role of the state in encouraging social and individual flourishing

  • Recently there has been a great deal of discussion about the importance of institutions for economic and social development. Rather less discussed are social norms and values. If a society and economy built upon social norms, as well as institutions, will be more resilient and conducive to individual liberty how can such norms be fostered?
  • Edmund Phelps (2013) argues that it is a ‘culture protecting and inspiring individuality, imagination, understanding, and self-expression that drives a nation’s indigenous innovation’. How has the expansion of the state in the last half century affected innovation and how can risk-taking and entrepreneurship be encouraged in the future?

Prosperity and morality

  • Prosperity is usually discussed in the context of national prosperity and its desirability is assumed, but what is the justification for this desirability?  Is prosperity an end in itself or is it a means to some other end, perhaps to our moral ends as individuals?
  • The philosopher F.H. Bradley described self-realisation as “the basis of ethics”, not dissimilar to the Aristotelian view of the moral life.  How does prosperity help us live good moral lives and is it possible to build a similar argument around the legalistic moral theories of the deontologists and consequentialists?
  • Entrants should ensure that their essays are thought-provoking, seek to challenge received wisdom, and touch upon current political, economic or social developments where relevant.

The Symposium

Shortlisted entrants will be invited to participate in this year’s Charles Street Symposium which will bring together the judges, along with academics and policy-makers. Martin Vander Weyer, Business Editor at The Spectator will serve as keynote speaker. The Symposium will take place in London on 4-5 December 2014, where winners will be announced.


  • 1st Prize: £1,000 and a large portrait miniature based on the scene of Louis XV giving Peace to Europe (1729) painted by Francois Lemoyne (1688-1737) and now at Versailles, France kindly donated by Philip Mould and Company.
  • 2nd Prize: £650
  • 3rd Prize: £350

All shortlisted entrants will also be offered the opportunity to have their work published in a volume produced by the Legatum Institute.

The Judges

  • Victoria Bateman, Fellow and College Lecturer in Economics, University of Cambridge
  • Tim Besley, Professor of Economics and Political Science, London School of Economics
  • Emma Duncan, Deputy Editor, The Economist

2014 Charles Street Symposium Poster [PDF]


The deadline for applications closed at midnight on 17 October 2014. All applications will be acknowledged by email confirmation. Shortlisted entries will be confirmed by 19 November 2014.

Terms and Conditions

The competition is open to all individuals, 35 years or younger. The Legatum Institute encourages submissions from a range of disciplines from history, political science, economics, business, philosophy and beyond. Entrants are asked to submit a 1,500 word essay on one of the specific questions outlined above, or devise their own, however questions must relate to one of the three research areas. Please note, the word limit does not include footnotes, end notes or bibliography. Authors may use any referencing style they wish.

For those not based in London the Legatum Institute will reimburse accommodation and travel expenses up to a maximum of £200. The Institute is happy to discuss and advise shortlisted entrants on issues relating the accommodation and travel.

For enquiries, please contact

Follow updates about the 2014 Charles Street Symposium on Twitter using #CharlesSt and @LegatumInst

Previous Years

2013 Charles Street Symposium

The 2013 Symposium brought together leading young economists to discuss the relevance—or irrelevance—of Austrian economist Friedrich August von Hayek's thought for today. Prospective participants were invited to submit an essay discussing the links between Hayek’s scholarly work and contemporary policy. Speakers included Esca Hayek (daughter-in-law of the late economist), Pascal Salin (Université Paris-Dauphine) and David Skarbek (King's College London)

More information about the Symposium available here, and the essay competition here.

2012 Charles Street Symposium

The inaugural Charles Street Symposium focussed on issues of economic risk and uncertainty. The Symposium brought together an outstanding group of young scholars, who were joined by a selection of leading senior economists as keynote speakers and mentors: Tyler Cowen (George Mason University), Randall Kroszner (University Of Chicago) and Peter Lewin (University Of Texas).

More information about the Symposium available here, and the application process here.