“Good show, Darling”

Last weekend saw the Economics Society put the rest of campus to shame by hosting the (admittedly self-proclaimed) ‘largest student-run event of its kind in the country’: the annual Warwick Economics Summit.

Despite the common consensus that the event attracted fewer of the big names of previous conferences, attendance remained very high, while the number of non-Warwick students in fact rose, with some hailing from as far as UC Berkeley and the University of Hull.

Among the highlights included the revolutionary behavourial economist, Dr Peter Lunn of the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin, who in an advance on his opposite number here at Warwick – Andrew Oswald – stressed the narrowness of the centuries-old sacred cows that economics lecturers still cling to.

“The atom of economics is no longer the individual, it’s the transaction,” began Dr Lunn, “we seem to care more about what everybody else has got than anything we personally want.” Dr Lunn then proceeded to impress us with a series of examples in which the market could be persuaded to buy a product at a higher price, simply by being offered a further, even more expensive item.

But where Dr Lunn really proved his worth was in his pertinent applications to real-life situations – including the recent credit crunch. Dr Lunn’s research suggests that professional market traders are often reluctant to sell investments they already hold, even though they could trade them for assets they would prefer to invest in if starting from scratch. And it is this information that could hold the key to how we manage bubbles in the future.

The real coup however came when WES managed to secure the surprise appearance of Alistair Darling. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had been snapped only moments previously showing his support for Gordon Brown who had come to Warwick’s Digital Laboratory to outline his highly anticipated electoral campaign.
In his answers to attendees’ questions, Darling stressed a qualified commitment to slashing the deficit by a half over the next four years, as well as reiterating the Prime Minister’s message moments before about the need to prepare for the “next ten to twenty years”.

In a subtle twist on the Conservative Party’s pledge for change – or perhaps an indulgent milking of the assembled students’ leftist sympathies – Darling also offered change that was “fair for all” and proceeded to tick-off a list of popular promises including new employment opportunities for the West Midlands and the need to protect “important [learning establishments] like Warwick”. Specifics however – being so close to the election – were minimal.

Mr Darling’s brief twenty-minute stint came only moments after Peter Lunn’s exciting exploration of behavourial economics, in which Lunn outlined the need to re-examine the way in which economic fundamentals are understood. A shame he missed it.


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