Ethical economics plan wins top IPPR prize

11th July 2019

News, Student news, Alumni news

A ‘radical’ plan to boost UK growth by a former Wadham student and his parents has been named as one of the co-winners of the £100,000 Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Economics Prize.

  • Ben Szreter (History, 2012) with his parents Simon and Hilary. Photo by Graham CopeKoga

Ben Szreter (History, 2012), chief executive of Cambridge United Community Trust, his father Simon Szreter, Professor of History and Public Policy at the University of Cambridge, and mother Hilary Cooper, economics consultant, worked together on a detailed plan to enable faster UK growth by investing in generous and universal welfare provision.

Ben Szreter said: “Our core idea is to incentivise a move to an ethical economic system - one based on mutual support where everyone has a stake in future well-being - as a solution to the economic and democratic problems we are now facing. We also identified that welfare provision must be reconceptualised as a crucial economic growth promoter not as merely a ‘tax burden’ on the productive economy.”

The trio shared the first prize with the other joint winner - seven co-workers at the London Economics Consultancy who argued that a ‘big push’ towards decentralisation would unlock prosperity around the UK.

Stephanie Flanders, head of Bloombery Economics, chaired the panel of judges looking for the best answers to the question, “What would be your radical plan to force a step change in the quality and quantity of the UK’s economic growth?”

The judges praised Szreter, Cooper and Szreter’s ‘radical’ historical, economic and community-led policy solutions to the economic challenges faced by the UK.

They commented: “The authors draw on a historical analysis of the economy, looking at previous periods of  British economic history to identify the enabling conditions for our most successful episodes of economic growth.  Prescriptions include a new, equitable social contract alongside an intergenerational contract, incentivised and funded through tax changes, to re-establish the ethical principles on which the economic success of the Golden Age was built.

“They each brought their different perspectives to bear on their core idea, that economic growth has been historically highest when collective welfare security is greatest – and their radical plan to incentivise altruistic economic behaviour today.”

The inaugural IPPR prize was introduced to reward innovative ideas to reinvigorate the UK economy that force a ‘step change in the quality and quantity of the UK’s economic growth’. The proposals had to ensure fair and sustainable outcomes, including protecting the environment and reducing inequalities.

Reacting to the news of their £50,000 win, the family said: "We’re really pleased that, in a world where economics seems to have increasingly veered towards models and mathematical abstractions, this prize has recognised the value of a different approach. Ours looks at history and how it can be applied to today’s practical challenges and brings the insights of political economy to propose a solution to the problems we face, especially the inequalities that threaten our productivity, our well-being and our democracy.”