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The John Locke Institute Essay Competition 2016

The John Locke Institute Essay Competition 2016

The John Locke Institute encourages young people to cultivate the characteristics that turn good students into great writers: independent thought, depth of knowledge, clear reasoning, critical analysis and persuasive style. The John Locke Institute Essay Competition invites students to tackle a challenging and interesting question and delve deeply into a particular subject, beyond the confines of the school curriculum.

Entering an essay in our competition can build knowledge, and refine skills of argumentation. It also gives students the chance to have their work assessed by experts. All of our essay prizes are judged by academics from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The judges will choose their favourite essay from each subject category and an overall ‘best essay’ across the four subjects: Philosophy, Politics, Economics and History.



  1. “The rules of morality are not the conclusion of our reason.” – David Hume

Where do they come from?

  1. “To secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” – US Declaration of Independence.

But have we really consented? And if we haven’t consented, are their powers just?


  1. Democracy is supposed to be rule of the people, by the people, and for the people. But in order to rule effectively, the people need political knowledge. If they know little or nothing about government, it becomes difficult to hold political leaders accountable for their performance. Unfortunately, public knowledge about politics is disturbingly low. In addition, the public also often does a poor job of evaluating the political information they do know. This state of affairs has persisted despite rising education levels, increased availability of information thanks to modern technology, and even rising IQ scores. It is mostly the result of rational behavior, not stupidity. Such widespread and persistent political ignorance and irrationality strengthens the case for limiting and decentralizing the power of government.” – Ilya Somin, 2013

Is political ignorance a problem? What’s the solution?

  1. 2. “Rather than talking about putting up a fence, why don’t we work out some regcognition of our mutual problems, make it possible for [Mexicans] to come here legally with a work permit… open the border both ways by understanding their problems.” Ronald Reagan, 1980

What happened to the Republican Party?


  1. What proportion of the GDP should be controlled by the state?
  2. What is the optimal level of government debt?


  1. Were the “Cavaliers wrong but wromantic and the Roundheads right but repulsive”?
  2. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana The Life of Reason (1905-1906)

When has a knowledge of history saved us? or When has ignorance of history failed us?


John Locke Institute, Oxford Princeton


There is a prize for the best essay in each subject category, Philosophy, Politics, Economics and History, provided the entries submitted are of a sufficiently high quality in the opinion of the judges.

ach subject prize is worth £100, and the essays will be published (with the authors’ permission) on the Institute website. The prize-giving ceremony will take place in Oxford on September 18th, and winners and runners-up will be able to meet the judges and members of the John Locke Institute, and hear a speech by a guest speaker. Family, friends and teachers are also welcome.

In addition to the subject prizes, the candidate who submits the best essay overall will be awarded an honourary John Locke Institute Junior Fellowship, worth £250.


August 21st, 2016


Entry is open to students from any country and any school.

Candidates must be between fifteen and eighteen years old on the date of the submission deadline, and must not yet have begun a degree course at university.

Essays should be submitted by August 21st, 2016. We will notify finalists by September 9th, and prize winners will be announced at the prize-giving ceremony September 16th.

Essays should address only one of the questions in the chosen subject category and should be no longer than 2000 words.

The judges’ decisions are final, and no correspondence will be entered into.

Essays will be judged on the level of knowledge and understanding of the relevant material, the quality of argumentation, the structure, writing style and persuasive force. Candidates are advised to answer the question as directly as possible.

Please submit your work as an email attachment, saved in pdf format, to The Education Director, John Locke Institute at


Please send your inquiries to


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About Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin

Writer. Difference Maker. Entrepreneur. Author, Your Right To Write & Vertical Writing. Winner, 11 Writing Prizes.

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