Can a society work for us all?

As life becomes more and more complex, how can we make sure employment, our pension systems and the environment work for everyone? We asked some of the world’s greatest economic experts to share their opinion with us.

Can we create a conflict-free world?

Some of us fear the world is becoming less peaceful, and that the issues dividing us are stronger than the ties binding us together.

Technological and scientific breakthroughs are common in the defense industry. But while we develop increasingly efficient ways to destroy people and cities, there’s also a science that works towards preventing war.

Nobel Laureate Robert J. Aumann uses Game Theory to study conflict and cooperation between decision makers, to develop models that might prevent wars from happening in the first place. Studies have already shown that being prepared for war is actually a big part of promoting peace.

“If you’re ready to fight, you’re willing to fight, and you give that impression – and that impression must be really true – then you won’t have to fight.”

How can we use Game Theory to design a peaceful social system?

The implications of Game Theory on world peace and stability are also considered by laureate Roger B. Myerson.

"Fundamental theoretical and empirical study of social phenomena will help us to manage the forces of destruction."

Myerson calls for more careful thinking about the world’s problems. He says that Game Theory can help us design stable social systems by providing a general framework and reminding us that many different issues need to be considered.

Can Game Theory save lives?

Do speed dating, junior doctors applying for residency programs and organ transplants have anything in common? Nobel Laureate Alvin E. Roth says yes, they do. All three are examples of cash-free markets, and his work had a profound effect on each of them. For example, he pioneered a kidney-swap program allowing people who want to donate a kidney to a loved one with an incompatible blood type to match with other incompatible donors and recipients: the donor donates a kidney to someone they don’t know, while their recipient receives a stranger’s kidney – saving two lives.

Preparing for later life

There are a number of other issues we have to address as a society. One of these is aging. Advances in medical sciences mean we’re now living longer and, with a global trend towards smaller families, there are fewer of us to take care of an aging population. So how should we prepare for old age?

Laureate Robert C. Merton says that while we want to retire at a similar age to our parents or grandparents, we expect to live longer than they do – which means we need to have a robust plan for our retirement. He encourages young people to use financial services for their own benefit, and to find someone who can advise them financially.

"You shouldn’t have to get an education to figure out how to manage your portfolio. You should be educated to find someone you trust to do that."

Creating pension systems that work

Of course, governments have a role to play in planning for their populations’ old age too. Nobel Laureate Peter A. Diamond is a pensions expert. His work analyzing welfare programs looked at how to design pensions systems that juggled all the complexities of modern life; from diverse populations to political pressures and high financial risks.

“The upcoming financial crisis for social security is something that has to be addressed face on.”

Do we need more immigration, rather than less?

It could be that immigration is the key to our economic development, and that immigrants could help address the problem of aging societies. It’s a view a number of Nobel Laureates in Economic Sciences share. But, in an increasingly populist political climate, is this a message that will be well received by world leaders?

Can we work together to manage shared resources?

The work of Nobel Laureate Elinor C. Ostrom paints a bright picture. Ostrom, who died in 2012, believed that people are perfectly capable of taking control of the decisions that affect their lives. Her book, ‘Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action’ outlines how shared resources can be managed by local people, without the need for government intervention.

“I think, now, we have gained a much greater respect for human ingenuity, creativity, capacity to come up with many kinds of solutions to challenging problems.”

Get new questions as they launch

What will my children’s future hold?

Will they be prepared? How can I give them the best start? In our Life’s Questions series, we look at how we can help prepare the next generation to be successful in the future.

"The next stages of my life will definitely be based on my children's development, their lives, and the world they're in."

Jean Hoefliger
Winemaker

More questions shaping our world

Equality

Why is it that equality is still so elusive, while inequality is seen as normal and almost inevitable?

Technology

We’re living in a time of rapid technological development. What impact will this have on our lives?

Employment

The nature of employment is changing, how do we prepare for jobs that don’t exist yet?

Politics

How can economics shed light on the way governments work and policy is made?

Investing

Why should we save? is it possible to invest without risk, and how can we all make the most of our finances?