Vernon Smith Prize – Virtual Awards Ceremony

vernon smith prize 2020 winners online awards ceremony
13th International Vernon Smith Prize  |  Winners received their Prizes in an online awards ceremony. Top left to right: Carlos Gebauer (Moderator), Susanna Gopp (ECAEF Host), Dikshya Mahat (3rd Prize). Bottom left to right: Ethan Yang (1st Prize), Prinz Michael of Liechtenstein (ECAEF President), Jorge Jraissati (3rd Prize). The second co-prize winner Krzysztof Lesniewski could not join the conference call due to illness. (Sceenshot: ZVG)

Back in January, we announced the winners of the 13th International Vernon Smith Prize, leaving us organizers with a very uncommon problem: How to run the Awards Ceremony with strict Covid-19 restrictions in place?  The winners were not able to follow the usual invitation. They could not attend a physical event in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. Instead, the award ceremony was held virtually through a Zoom Webinar on 8 February 2021. Because now, more than ever, it is important that we continue to recognise the achievements around us. It is a powerful way for us to continue forward, even when it feels like we are at a standstill.

Via Zoom Webinar, the winners did successfully defend the essays after an international jury did judge their works. Prince Michael of Liechtenstein honored the winners.

1st Prize:
Ethan Yang (USA)


2nd Prize:
Christoph Lesniewski (Poland)


3rd Prize:
Dikshya Mahat (Nepal) and Jorge Jraissati (USA)
ex aequo


The prizes have been awarded on the basis of originality, grasp of subject, and the logical consistence of the argument.

Topic was:
‘Is the Public Interest really in the public’s interest?’

About 85 years ago, F. A. von Hayek already has warned us that even “if people agree about the desirability of planning in general, their agreements about the ends which planning is to serve will in the first instance necessarily be confined to some general formula like ‘social welfare’, the ‘general interest’, the ‘common good’, ‘greater equality’ or ‘justice’ etc. ”

Agreement on such a general formula is however, not sufficient to determine a concrete plan, even if we take all the technical means as given”. Although, these ambiguous, emotionally charged and politically domineering slogans still arouse the fantasy of intellectuals and politicians alike, a conceptual definition of these ‘multi-purpose’ terms appears to be of no concern for them. It is a regrettable fact that especially economics, far more than the other social sciences, is obsessed with the reiteration of popular, yet meaningless buzz words.

The following prize money was given to winners:

1st Prize: €4,000  |  2nd Prize: €3,000  |  3rd Prize: €2,000


The International Vernon Smith Prize for the advancement of Austrian Economics is an annual essay competition sponsored and organized by ECAEF – European Center of Austrian Economics Foundation, Vaduz (Principality of Liechtenstein).