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Centre for Economic Performance:
CEP 30th anniversary competition winner announced

1 September 2020

The winner of the first Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) essay prize is Vanessa Huang, of Discovery Bay International School, Hong Kong, for her essay about what governments can do to 
improve people’s happiness. 

Ms Huang, who is due to start studying philosophy, politics and economics at LSE in 2021, tackled the question: “According to Thomas Jefferson, ‘The care of human life and happiness…is the only legitimate object of good government.’ What will change if governments make happiness the only policy objective?”

The judges described her essay as “well-written and creative”, saying that it touched on both the benefits and limitations of putting wellbeing at the centre of policy-making, and carefully reflected on the policy implications. 

“The author demonstrates an understanding of the relevant literature and a good deal of critical thought," they added.

Ms Huang was awarded a prize certificate and a copy of Can We Be Happier? signed by the author Richard Layard, CEP’s founder director.

“The opportunity to develop my independent thought and analyse current economic issues was something that drew me to the LSE SU Economics Society essay competition,” Ms Huang said.
“I chose to discuss what policy would look like with happiness as the sole objective as we see politicians fervently promoting economic growth as the intermediary step that ultimately leads to overall happiness – yet individuals in modern societies generally report low levels of happiness, and issues affecting happiness that supposedly would have been eradicated, given the explosive levels of growth experienced in recent history, continue to exist. The notion of using happiness as the sole criterion for policy seems somehow astonishingly simple yet radical and revolutionary at the same time.”

The runners-up for the CEP prize were Alex Kennedy of Fortismere School, UK, and Rachel Lim Li-Hsuen of Raffles Institution, Singapore.

The award was launched as one of the CEP’s 30th anniversary events. It was one of seven prizes awarded in the LSE SU Economics Essay competition. The competition had almost 1,000 submissions from students all around the world.
The competition aims to encourage pre-tertiary education students to think critically on current social issues.

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