Vernon Smith Prize 2020 – winners announcement

The winners of the 13th International Vernon Smith Prize are:

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. An international jury did judge the essays, and the winners were initially invited to present their papers at a special event in Vaduz, the Principality of Liechtenstein. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, this event will have to be held virtually through Online Conference Call on 8 Feb 2021.

The 2020 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 will be 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).