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David McMillan ’21 Awarded the International Vernon Smith Prize | Q&A

What has it been like to receive the prestigious International Vernon Smith Prize? What has this process taught you?

I am honored to have received the 14th International Vernon Smith Prize. Professor Vernon Smith, the founding father of experimental economics, revolutionized the field of economics; his groundbreaking research introduced lab experiments as a tool of economic analysis and he showed that markets equilibrate even without an infinite number of market participants or perfect information about market conditions. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the ceremony from being held in Vaduz, I enjoyed presenting my essay to His Serene Highness Prince Michael of Liechtenstein and other distinguished guests via Zoom. In completing research for my essay, I learned about the nature of uncertainty, economic knowledge, human action, and markets by reading classic texts from Keynes, Hayek, Kirzner, and others.


How has TCNJ helped you to achieve this prize?

The TCNJ community has made all the difference in my winning this prize. In particular, Professor James Stacey Taylor sparked my interest in ethical and policy debates on markets; in addition, he first introduced me to the work of Vernon Smith. I greatly benefited from being a student in six of his courses, participating in a book club that he led, and attending guest lectures/conferences that he organized. Professor Taylor has made groundbreaking contributions in the field of ethics, he is frequently invited to deliver lectures around the world, and I highly recommend his new book Markets with Limits!


Can you offer any advice to Lions who are considering submitting to similar contests?

The best advice that I have for students who are interested in entering an essay competition can be summarized by the trademark of Nike: Just do it. Essay competitions provide the occasion for students to critically engage with academic scholarship, advance arguments, and improve their writing. When prize money is offered, the incentives associated with participation become even more significant.


What’s next for you, David? 

Currently, I am studying for an MSc in Public Policy at the University of Edinburgh thanks to the generous support of the Saint Andrew’s Society of the State of New York; concurrently, I am participating in a Don Lavoie Fellowship with the Mercatus Center.


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