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Philosophy, Politics & Economics Personal Statement

I am interested in the way that society works, the principles on which it is based and the interactions between these principles. Economics is indispensable for understanding society as, for one thing, it examines the use of power: an increasingly dynamic force since the emergence of democratic, market-based societies. Similarly, politics constructs and understands the framework for the exercise of such power, whilst philosophy, according to Russell, critiques the 'convictions, prejudices and beliefs' which direct the use of power.

I believe that for any society to be recognisably free, it must encourage citizens to contribute to their sovereignty through political engagement. This engagement includes not only a practical understanding of politics, but also an appreciation of its moral dimensions and philosophical heritage. One book that discusses competing theories of justice and the critiques that they provoke of today's political norms is Kymlicka's 'Contemporary Political Philosophy'. I thought that Kymlicka's evaluation of utilitarianism as ceasing to define a distinctive position in modern politics, due to the devolution of power, was particularly insightful when contrasted with utilitarianism's historic commitment to radicalism. However, I felt that his dismissal of 'welfare hedonism', based solely on Nozick's 'experience machine', was underdeveloped.

I think Nozick's 'experience machine' falls to the criticism that it is psychologically difficult to detach happiness from the accomplishments and virtues that accompany it. Hence Kymlicka's dismissal of 'welfare hedonism', based on our refusal to use the 'experience machine', is unsubstantiated, as this choice results from our inability to objectify happiness rather than a rejection of the hedonistic notion that happiness is the only intrinsically desirable end. I think that utilitarianism is a more intuitively attractive system of governance after reading Mill's 'Utilitarianism', due to Mill's consideration of the legitimacy of rights in moral judgements. I am furthering my study of utilitarian theories of justice by learning about mathematical models for calculating utility, using Jacques' 'Mathematics for Economics and Business'.

The Economist article, 'The Web's New Walls', sparked my interest in the current extent of, and limits to, globalisation. I pursued this with a research project that analysed the views espoused in Friedman's 'The World is Flat' and Ghemawat's 'World 3.0', which I presented to my school's Economics Society. I felt that Ghemawat's use of data trumped Friedman's entirely inductive approach because he placed Friedman's findings in the context of global totals. Most importantly, Ghemawat demonstrated the persisting significance of national borders and explored McCallum's 'Home bias multiple' by examining the drastic changes in trade flows in Germany after its reunification, and in the Czech Republic and Slovakia after their separation. Ghemawat's view that the modern world has become 'regionalised' rather than 'globalised' was corroborated by an IMF Paper that found intra- exceeds inter-regional trade. Nonetheless, I thought his view somewhat one-sided due to its disregard for inter-regional proposals such as TAFTA and APEC.

As I am fascinated by computerised mathematical modelling, I am developing my ability to code in HTML and CSS with the intention of progressing to Python, a more complex language often used in such models. My gap year began with employment as a content editor for a chauffeuring firm, and I have arranged work experience in Corporate Finance at Barclays. I intend to work abroad during my gap year as an engagement with different cultures and languages will grant me a more holistic understanding of modern societies. I thoroughly enjoyed project-managing the 'RAG Week' barbecue at school last year as it developed my problem-solving and interpersonal skills. I plan to continue my charity work by partaking in ICS next summer.

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