Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)

Author: Cameron Thompson

Applied in: Winter 2013

University Offers: Oxford, Warwick, Durham, Nottingham, Sheffield

What excites me about PPE is not only that it encompasses three fundamental issues in understanding the world - how we should allocate resources, be governed, and make moral judgements - but also that the three disciplines are seen as complementary, not separate subjects. This attracts me hugely to the course, as it is where Philosophy, Politics and Economics overlap that I find them most gripping.

In personal reading and in regular attendance at public lectures at the LSE, the Adam Smith Institute and Gresham College I have met a rich seam of new ideas, which have spurred an academic interest in areas previously unknown. Particularly informative were lectures on the relationship between globalisation and inequality, the market's role in climate change, and Isaiah Berlin's Two Concepts of Liberty.

I am fascinated by the link between politics and economics; I investigated this link in writing an essay on the politics of NHS reform, and reading Why Nations Fail by James A. Robinson and Daron Acemoglu. They asserted political and economic inclusivity as vital in promoting long-term economic growth. A point of personal interest was the economics of incentives; their analysis of the collapse of growth in the USSR, growth which relied on capital accumulation and forced re-allocation of labour from agriculture to more productive industries by the state, was convincing. I found persuasive their theory that the extractive nature of economic institutions, which often remove the incentive to increase productivity and to innovate, can slow growth. However, I felt sympathy with the view that state involvement can accelerate the growth of nascent industries and alleviate poverty. An interest was sparked in Institution Theory, and enabled me to look at long-term economic performance without relying on traditional explanations like geography, culture, economic policy or pure historical contingency.

Reading polar perspectives has allowed a clearer insight into the philosophical basis of different economic theories. Arthur Seldon's assertion in Capitalism that the state was preceded more effectively in provision of unemployment welfare and health by private individuals was stimulating, but I thought it would be naive to assume the market can provide the nation-wide availability that government can.

Reading The Communist Manifesto and observing Marx's use of language to re-define private property as an oppressive concept and as something owned only by a minority emphasised to me the importance of rhetorical devices in political texts. Exploring this, I read Orwell's Politics and the English Language. I found compelling his idea that linguistic style and the use of rhetoric to hide truths are inseparable and was convinced by the essay, even if I found his "six-rule remedy" (which he often broke) too impractical.

To learn from peers and develop my own ideas, I attend and have lectured at the School's Eco-nomics Society and I co-chair the School's Political Society, where mediating debate has taught me to analyse arguments and their weaknesses. Work experience at Cause4, a charitable-sector consultancy, led to an interest in the changing relationship between charities and government in straitened times. I study sign language and volunteer in a school for deaf children - along with my positions as House Captain and Prefect, this has developed my ability to communicate and to work in a team setting. Balancing the large reading list for English Pre-U with the equally challenging German course - wherein I have started a personal investigation into the contribution of German thinkers to European philosophy - has been critical in improving my analysis and essay-writing skills. I have also found Maths A-Level hugely helpful in approaching problems methodically and appreciating data-based issues. I hope in the future to immerse myself in the study of ideas, and to be stretched in an environment where debate and logical argument are paramount.

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