A celebration of economics, strange as it seems

I’ve just returned from the Trento Festival of Economics, founded by Tito Boeri, full of enthusiasm for the idea. The programme included lots of interesting speakers. As the photo below shows, publishers take full advantage of the occasion to show off their wares – the Italian edition of my book prominent among them.

The book tent at the Trento Festival of Economics

The most exhilarating aspect, however, was the audience. The talks were all full of people, some economists but many not. One woman I met taught economics in a high school, another has a son who has started to study the subject at school. There were bankers, local politicians, parents with their teenage children, and I suppose the kind of people who go to all of these literary and ideas festivals, the concerned reader of newspapers worried about the state of the world. One of the many paradoxes of our times is that economics is in such disrepute and yet people are so interested in the subject.

It’s a little odd to find economists being so celebrated – there were huge posters of previous speakers hanging above the streets, including Gary Becker, below. Yet how marvellous to confront economists with people. Surely we must have a Festival of Economics in the UK to make sure our academic economists, and business economists and policy makers, regularly meet each other and normal people too.

Gary Becker in the Trento sky