Warwick, UK – Sunday, February 2nd, the Stork continued its closing coverage of the 2020 Warwick Economic Summit.
For the final time, students gathered into “The Oculus.” The end day of the Warwick Economic Summit had come, and despite the excitement of last night’s festivities, few were willing to let the day’s speeches pass them by.
First to take the stage was Giampaolo di Paola, Former Italian Minister of Defense. A former Chairman of the NATO Committee and Italian armed forces’ Chief of Staff, Mr. Di Paola has a long and proud history of serving his country and Europe as whole. Speaking on European security and defense as a driver of integration, the former Defense Minister started by joking he wasn’t sure why he had been invited to an economic summit. “To be very frank … I was wondering myself ‘what the hell am I doing here’ … I know no inclination whatsoever of … economics,” bringing on laughs from the attendees.
Paraphrasing the famous economist Maynard Keynes, he began his speech with the words “the idea that the future will be different from the present is so repetitive … the real problem is to abandon the old ones … [else] you will be back at the depart station,” essentially stating that only truly unconventional and new thinking can break the cycles of history. To that aim, he directed students’ attention to the race between China and the United States, and the ideas of European army as a unifying force against the threats posed by rapidly evolving world. Such unification has its appeals – a European army would allow for spending to become more efficient, as well as eliminates some of the democratic barriers to coordinated operations deriving from NATO’s construction.
The former NATO Chairman then took to answering difficult questions posed by the attendees. When asked about NATO’s stable democracy standard for membership and NATO’s relation to Turkey, di Paola had two answers: one politically correct, and one not. “It is true … in its charter, we are a gathering of democratic nations” he stated. However, “there are other nations in NATO which are debatable about democracy.” At the end of the day, the primary purpose of the Northern Alliance remains to be a defensive military force, and some concessions are necessary to retain a force of its strength. Di Paola additionally answered questions on the 2011 NATO-led coalition intervention in Libya, reaffirming the justification on humanitarian grounds of the responsibility to protect. He felt as though the real problem wasn’t the intervention, but the failure to reestablish proper statehood afterwards.
Next came a short video message by Don Johnston, former Secretary-General for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. His message was decisively ominous, beginning with phrases such as Kurt Vonnegut’s “History! Read it and weep!” He spoke of the rise in global warming and populism. He spoke of how his generation had failed, had passed the baton onto ours, remarking “it is not a very happy race.” He spoke of income inequality and economic turmoil. He urged the attendees correct the mistakes that were being made, to return to democracy, and to halt the growing possibility of a nuclear holocaust and humanity’s extinction… In his own words: “I offer you hope, but also challenge.”
To change the tone from the doom and gloom of the Mr. Johnston, Assistant Professor Marta Santamaria of the University of Warwick walked to the podium. An already accomplished newcomer to her field, she was a recipient of the prestigious Young Economist Award from the European Economic Association, the Assistant Professor would be speaking on her work regarding borders within Europe. Here research relied upon using the gravity model of bilateral trade, in which trade volume and distance are the determining factors of trade flow.
According to her research, even in locations where trade barriers at the border had been eliminated through free trade agreements, an diminishing effect could still be seen. When looking at trade across the US-Canada border as compared to domestic trade, one can calculate the existence of a border as being equivalent to a roughly 40% tariff on total trade.
When asked about Catalonia and trade between other neighboring provinces in Spain, Asst. Prof. Santamaria did note that there looked to be some evidence of that domestic political compositions did act as trade barriers. While she didn’t emphasize on it too heavily, some of this would make sense – why else would people have a preference in buying products marked “Hecho en España” or “Made in America” if not as they perceive it to help out their regional or domestic economies.
Up next was the last panel of the event, centering on the Middle East and Western intervention. The panel was composed of three men: Paul Wood (an award winning journalist and former world affairs correspondent with the BBC), Chris Nineham (a British political activist and founding member of the Stop the War Coalition), and Walter Armbrust (Associate Professor of Modern Middle Eastern Studies of the University of Oxford).
The panel began with vigor against any notions of Western intervention. “The great power continues to intervene absolutely ruthlessly and systematically” in the affairs of the Middle East, Mr. Wood stated bluntly, as they try to establish an ever-stronger sphere of influence. Mr. Wood even went so far as to say “the last thing the West wants is democracy,” speaking of the insidious nature of Western powers attempting to capitalize on some of the now unstructured and weakened systems of oil-rich or neighboring nations.
Mr. Nineham attributed the actions of the West to folly. It was if it were a “comic strip version of history,” with the West being the self-proclaimed hero of the globe. All the while, it was meddling in the sovereign affairs of Middle Eastern countries to its own personal (short-run) gain. Professor Armbrust additionally called attention to the stagnating economies and widespread corruption generally accepted (or even encouraged) by the West.
The panel then answered multiple questions revolving around different topics of concern. When asked the classical question of Islam’s inherent inability to merge with democracy, the panel members agreed that while certain aspects were problematic, they were no more than that of any other religion. When asked about Lebanon, they noted the struggles there, and how billionaires are trying to retain power through “a new generation of old politicians.” Finally, in response to Dr. Ebadi’s advice from before about leaving Iran to self-determination, Mr. Wood fully agreed: “I don’t trust the … western foreign policy and their armies – ever – to take initiative for humanitarian reasons.”
Lastly, Professor Avinash Dixit of Princeton University took to the podium as the final speaker of the summit. He began his speech by first heartily thanking the WES for inviting him back, and for the hospitality shown to him. In a clever transition remarking on the various ethnicities in the room and the expected corruption students may have faced, he stated “being at Warwick, so close to Stratford, its very appropriate to find out that things have changed greatly since Shakespeare’s time, and now there’s almost nothing rotten in the state of Denmark.”
Speaking on “How Youth can Contribute to the Fight Against Corruption,” Professor Dixit noted how corruption was a “complex phenomena.” In corruption, one can define roughly three levels: petty, which is done for small personal gain or private benefit (such as a police officer using lights and sirens to travel faster without any emergency happening); middle, where larger personal or collective gain can be seen (such as a governor receiving kick-backs for company contracts), or grand corruption, where crony capitalism is visible (such as an entire agency become subject to business wants).
The Professor then went on to speak on how corruption acts like a tax, but worse, as it is unstable and uncertain (given terms are malleable). Prof. Dixit wholeheartedly rejected the idea that corruption and bribes can ‘grease the wheels of bureaucracy,’ calling it a “second-rate argument at best.” But, when corruption is so massive, how can one hope to stop it?
Prof. Dixit pointed to many examples: the zero rupee note in India, where businessmen banded together against corrupt officials by shaming them with the note; the “Addiopizzo” or “Goodbye Pizzo/Protection Money” in Sicily, where students led a unionized movement against the Mafia; and of course, the general calls for creating anti-corruption agencies.
Finally, this reporter asked the professor “how would characterize President Trump in terms of corruption – his preference for family, his use of private lawyers in federal foreign affairs, etc.?” His response: “I myself would characterize him as extremely corrupt … payment doesn’t have to be monetary.”
Shortly afterwards, the Q&A session ended, and hosts Ananya Kumar and Parth Devalia retook the stage to give their parting words. After three intense days of discussion, debate, and learning, the 2020 Warwick Economic Summit came to a close.
Editor’s Note: We apologize for the lack of live event pictures – our correspondent was extremely ill the last day of. the conference, and lacked a photography team.