16th International Vernon Smith Prize

XVI. International Vernon Smith Prize 

The 16th International Vernon Smith Prize was an essay competition for the advancement of Austrian Economics – sponsored and organized by ECAEF – European Center of Austrian Economics Foundation, Vaduz (Principality of Liechtenstein).

The Award Ceremony took place on February 19, 2024 in Vaduz:


2023 Topic: The Rule of Law. It’s Meaning and Purpose


It is feasible that during the long reception of Roman Law, the legal term ‘Nomos’ was deficiently translated by ‘Lex’ instead of ‘Jus’ and thus led to a semantic trap quite similar to the replacement of ‘the Rule of Law’ by that of ‘a rule of law’ in modern democracies. While the latter is used to designate some particular legal directives (e.g., pay taxes at a certain time), the Rule of Law refers to Nomos, the entire body of law and its institutions. As a venerable ideal of our political morality, it shaped the continental concept of the ‘Rechtsstaat’. The Rule of Law or more accurate, Government under the Law is a safeguard of individual liberty, meaning that the state has no other power over private citizens than that which is necessary to secure general legal statutes, equally applicable to all. In other words, the Rule of Law determines the attributes that ideally law should have and thus can take on a number of denotations ranging from those which depict the law as a means for the protection of legitimate individual rights to those which depict it as an efficient and socially beneficial means of institutional control. However, this means neither that the state is restricted to enforcing the law nor that the state is restricted in its other activities by statutory provisions. Although the statutes necessary for running the state, as well as the parliamentarian authorizations to the state, are also called ‘laws’ in everyday parlance, they are by their nature quite different from the Rule of Law that applies to all citizens, legislatures and government agencies. Because the Rule of Law relates to actions that affect others, it can be compared to the rules of a game, which do not prohibit what is allowed to someone else under the same conditions. Are we still under the Rule of Law or are we pushed around by the law of rules?

The winners of the XVI. Vernon Smith Prize 2023 were:


ex-aequo with Babatunde Valentine Onabajo, AKC (UK): WHERE DOES FRIEDRICH HAYEK FIT IN CONTRACT THEORY?




The International Vernon Smith Prize has been established in 2008 by ECAEF for the advancement of Austrian Economics. It is named after Professor Vernon Lomax Smith (born in 1927). He is professor of economics at Chapman University’s Argyros School of Business and Economics and School of Law in Orange, California, a research scholar at George Mason University Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, and a Fellow of the Mercatus Center, all in Arlington, Virginia. Smith shared the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Daniel Kahneman. He is also the founder and president of the International Foundation for Research in Experimental Economics, a Member of the Board of Advisors for The Independent Institute, and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington D.C.

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