The present, according to a philosopher and an economist

Nowadays politics and the economy fill the front pages of the news media. Philosopher Fernando Savater and Guillermo de la Dehesa, an economist and president of the Centre for Economics Policy Research (CEPR), provided an in-depth analysis of the present situation, both inside Spain and internationally, during the Hay Festival Segovia event held at the Santa Cruz de La Real campus of IE University. They exchanged ideas about what they consider are the main problems of our time.

“We philosophers are specialists in saying what everybody knows, but saying it in a truculent tone,” said Savater to kick off his observations. He then spoke about one of today’s most controversial subjects: what defines a citizen and his link to the political system. “In a democracy we’re all politicians. A citizen necessarily has a political dimension, and it’s not a choice,” he added.

In this sense, the philosopher also defined a citizen in relation to the place where he lives. “In a country like Spain there are only Spanish citizens. There are Basques, Catalans… but those are cultural denominations. If we forget that a citizen is a citizen of a country, we have the absurdity of someone who thinks he has the right to decide who gives the orders and who doesn’t in a certain territory,” he explained, a reference to the independence process in Catalonia.

Beside the Catalan case, Guillermo de la Dehesa also gave his opinion about Brexit. He said it was “unheard of” that the British primer minister, David Cameron, could have organized a referendum without first analyzing what the consequences might be. He also stressed the “terrible” effects for European Union countries of the UK’s pulling out of that union. “The impact is important for Europe because it’s a case of a country with great weight, and for the UK it will be much worse than what they think,” he said. But he said it will be “at least two years” before we see the consequences of that exit.


Immigration was another of the subjects dealt with during this session. From an economic and sociological point of view, Guillermo de la Dehesa noted that Europe’s population is the one that is aging the fastest, behind only Japan. This situation, he said, endangers the European pension system. “In Europe, in 1913, when the average life expectancy was 43 years, retirement was set at 65 years. Today life expectancy is 82 and we continue to talk about 65. The system is going to collapse. If there are no immigrants, it will be impossible for Europe to survive,” he warned. The philosopher shared De la Dehesa’s opinion, and stressed that “immigration is spoken about as if it were a threat, but for the oldest people it is our hope.” And he rejected all those arguments against foreigners coming to Spain, saying they are not valid, as long as these foreigners respect the laws.

They ended with a discussion of corruption. In this sense, Savater wanted to make clear that “the fight against corruption cannot be part of a party’s political program. It is an earlier step, a hygienic measure that is very necessary and essential in Spain.” To be able to take part in politics, he insisted, it’s necessary to have first gotten rid of corruption in the political system.

This was an extremely valuable hour, in which the key points of current events were discussed from the different points of view of a philosopher and an economist.


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