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2023 Global ESSAY Competition

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. Our Essay Competition invites students to explore a wide range of challenging and interesting questions 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 a panel of senior academics drawn from leading universities including Oxford and Princeton. The judges will choose their favourite essay from each of seven subject categories, and a junior category for under 15s, and then select an overall 'best essay' across the seven subjects: Philosophy, Politics, Economics, History, Psychology, Theology and Law.

2022 Questions

Philosophy

Q1. A team of scientists wants to discover how many genders there are. How should they proceed?

Q2. In what sense are you the same person today that you were when you were ten?

 

Q3. Is tax theft? 

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Politics

Q1. Do the results of elections express the will of the people?

 

Q2. If China becomes the leading superpower, what would that mean for the people who live there? What would it mean for everyone else?

Q3. What might account for the different levels of political corruption in your own country and your country's nearest neighbour?

Economics

Q1. A government funds its own expenditure by taxing its population. Suppose, instead, it relied solely on money newly created by the central bank? What would be the advantages and/or disadvantages?   

 

Q2. In his thought experiment, the Iowa Car Crop, David Friedman tries to show that growing wheat is, in an important sense, just another 'technology' we can use for manufacturing cars, and in some circumstances a much more efficient one.

 

If international trade is thus a way of using less valuable inputs to produce more valuable outputs, why would governments impose trade barriers such as tariffs and quotas, thereby forcing producers to be more wasteful and less efficient?

 

Q3. What would happen if we banned billionaires?

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Q1. How much richer or poorer are the British today than they would have been without the effects of British colonialism? 

 

Q2. Which has a bigger effect on history: the plans of the powerful or their mistakes?

 

Q3. Which characteristics distinguish successful movements for social change from unsuccessful ones?

Psychology

Q1. Can happiness be measured?

 

Q2. In surveys conducted in the United States, significantly more than half the respondents reported that they believed themselves to be more attractive than the median person in their country. How might we account for this?

 

Q3. Are beliefs voluntary?

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Q1. What distinguishes a small religion from a large cult?

Q2. If you cannot persuade your intelligent, sympathetic friends to embrace your religious belief system, do you have enough reason to believe what you believe? 

 

Q3. What was God doing before He created the cosmos?

Law

Q1. Would justice be better served in the United States if more Supreme Court judges were women? 

 

Q2. Suppose that you were contemplating, in violation of the rules of this competition, submitting an essay written for you by artificial intelligence. What would be the difference between such an act and ordinary attempted theft?

 

Q3. Are there too many laws?

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Q1. Is safety more important than fun?

 

Q2. If you had $10 billion to spend on making the world better, how would you spend it?

 

Q3. What, if anything, do your parents owe you?

Q4. What is something important, about which nearly everybody is wrong?

Q5. Why is John Locke sometimes called the father of liberalism?

 

Entry Requirements
Key Dates

NEW ENTRY REQUIREMENTS &
FURTHER DETAILS

Our entry requirements and submission system have changed substantially.

Please read the following carefully.

 

Entry to the John Locke Institute Essay Competition 2023 is open to students from any country.

Registration 

Only candidates who registered before the registration deadline of 31 May 2023 may enter this year's competition.

Submission

All entries must be submitted by 11.59 pm BST on the submission deadline: Friday, 30 June 2023Candidates must be eighteen years old, or younger, on that date. (Candidates for the Junior Prize must be fourteen years old, or younger, on that date.)


Entry is free.


Each essay must address only one of the questions in your chosen subject category, and must not exceed 2000 words (not counting diagrams, tables of data, endnotes, bibliography or authorship declaration). 


The filename of your pdf must be in this format: FirstName-LastName-Category-QuestionNumber.pdf; so, for instance, Alexander Popham would submit his answer to question 2 in the Psychology category with the following file name:

 

Alexander-Popham-Psychology-2.pdf

 

Essays with filenames which are not in this format will be rejected.

Candidates should NOT add footnotes. They may, however, add endnotes and/or a Bibliography that is clearly titled as such.

Each candidate will be required to provide the email address of an academic referee who is familiar with the candidate's written academic work. This should be a school teacher, if possible, or another responsible adult who is not a relation of the candidate. The John Locke Institute will email this referee to verify that the submitted essay is indeed the original work of the candidate.


Submissions may be made as soon as registration opens in April. We recommend that you submit your essay well in advance of the deadline to avoid any last-minute complications and to ensure that you can submit your essay for free.

Acceptance of your essay depends on your granting us permission to use your data for the purposes of receiving and processing your entry as well as communicating with you about the Awards Ceremony Dinner, the academic conference for essay competition finalists, and other events and programmes of the John Locke Institute and its associated entities.
 

Late entries

If for any reason you miss the 30 June deadline you will have an opportunity to make a late entry, under two conditions:

a) A late entry fee of 20.00 USD must be paid by credit card within twenty-four hours of the original deadline; and

b) Your essay must be submitted before 11.59 pm BST on 10 July 2023.

 

To pay for late entry, a registrant need only log into his or her account, select the relevant option and provide the requested payment information.

Assessment

Our grading system is proprietary. Essayists may be asked to discuss their entry with a member of the John Locke Institute’s faculty. We use various means to identify plagiarism, contract cheating, the use of AI and other forms of fraud. Our determinations in all such matters are final.


Essays will be judged on knowledge and understanding of the relevant material, the competent use of evidence, quality of argumentation, originality, structure, writing style and persuasive force. The very best essays are likely to be those which would be capable of changing somebody's mind. Essays which ignore or fail to address the strongest objections and counter-arguments are unlikely to be successful.


Candidates are advised to answer the question as precisely and directly as possible.

Results

The writers of the best essays will receive a commendation and be shortlisted for a prize. Writers of shortlisted essays will be notified by 11.59 pm BST on 31 July. They will also be invited to Oxford for an invitation-only academic conference and awards dinner in September, where the prize-winners will be announced. Unlike the competition itself, the academic conference and awards dinner are not free. Please be aware that nobody is required to attend either the academic conference or the prize ceremony. You can win a prize without travelling to Oxford.


All short-listed candidates, including prize-winners, will be able to download eCertificates that specify their achievement. If you win First, Second or Third Prize, and you travel to Oxford for the ceremony, you will receive a signed certificate. 

Prizes

There is a prize for the best essay in each category. The prize for each winner of a subject category, and the winner of the Junior category, is a scholarship worth US$2000 towards the cost of attending any John Locke Institute programme, and the essays will be published on the Institute's website. Prize-giving ceremonies will take place in Oxford, at which winners and runners-up will be able to meet some of the judges and other faculty members of the John Locke Institute. Family, friends, and teachers are also welcome, subject to capacity constraints.


The candidate who submits the best essay overall will be awarded an honorary John Locke Institute Junior Fellowship, which comes with a US$10,000 scholarship to attend one or more of our summer schools and/or gap year courses.


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

Key Dates

  • Registration opens: 1 April, 2023.

  • Registration deadline: 31 May, 2023. (Registration is required by this date for subsequent submission.)

  • Submission deadline: 30 June, 2023.

  • Late entry deadline: 10 July, 2023. (Late entries are subject to a 20.00 USD charge, payable by 1 July.)

  • Notification of short-listed essayists: 31 July, 2023.

  • Academic conference & awards dinners: 16 September, 2023.

Contact
Any queries regarding the essay competition should be sent to global.essay.prize@johnlocke.com. Please be aware that, due to the large volume of correspondence we receive, we cannot guarantee to answer every query. In particular, questions whose answers can be found on our website will be ignored.
If you would like to receive, from time to time, content from our examiners about what makes for a winning essay or updates about the 2023 essay competition, please provide your email here to be added to our contact list. 

Thanks for subscribing!

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"I hope you will find this year's questions thought-provoking, and that you will be one of the thousands of contestants from over a hundred different countries to submit an essay to what has become the world's largest competition of its kind. Not only will the experience of researching and writing the essay be a valuable learning experience, but the shortlisted candidates will be invited to Oxford to join with other talented young people who have thought carefully about the same question, for a unique series of precepts under the experienced leadership of an academic expert."

 

Martin Cox, Director of the John Locke Institute

Notification

Q. I missed the registration deadline. May I still register or submit an essay?

A. No. Only candidates who registered before 31 May will be able to submit an essay this year. 

Q. Are footnotes, endnotes, a bibliography or references counted towards the word limit?

A. No. Only the body of the essay is counted. However, you may not use footnotes: please use endnotes instead. 

Q. Are in-text citations counted towards the word limit?

 

A. If you are using an in-text based referencing format, such as APA, your in-text citations are included in the word limit.

Q. Should citations be footnotes or in-text citations?

 

A. We do not allow footnotes. Please use in-text citations or endnotes

Q. Is it necessary to include footnotes or endnotes in an essay?

 

A. You may not include footnotes, but you may include endnotes. You should give your sources of any factual claims you make, and you should acknowledge any other authors on whom you rely.​

Q. I submitted my essay before the rule about footnotes was changed. I've used footnotes so my essay does not comply with the prohibition of their use. What should I do?

A. Nothing. You will not be penalized in any way. As long as you followed the rules as they were when you submitted your essay, your essay has been accepted and is being considered like any other.  

Q. I am interested in a question that seems ambiguous. How should I interpret it?


A. You may interpret a question as you deem appropriate, clarifying your interpretation if necessary. Having done so, you must answer the question as directly as possible.

 

Q. How strict are the age eligibility criteria?

 

A. Only students whose nineteenth birthday falls after 30 June 2023 will be eligible for a prize or a commendation. In the case of the Junior category, only students whose fifteenth birthday falls after 30 June 2023 will be eligible for a prize or a commendation. 

 

Q. May I submit more than one essay?

 

A. Yes, you may submit as many essays as you please in any or all categories.

Q. If I am eligible to compete in the Junior category, may I also (or instead) compete in another category?

 

A. Yes, you may.

Q. May I team up with someone else to write an essay?
 

A. No. Each submitted essay must be entirely the work of a single individual.

Q. May I use AI, such as ChatGPT or the like, in writing my essay?

 

A. All essays will be checked for the use of AI. If we find that any content is generated by AI, your essay will be disqualified. We will also ask you, upon submission of your essay, whether you used AI for any purpose related to the writing of your essay, and if so, you will be required to provide details. In that case, if, in our judgement, you have not provided full and accurate details of your use of AI, your essay will be disqualified. 

 

Since any use of AI (that does not result in disqualification) can only negatively affect our assessment of your work relative to that of work that is done without using AI, your safest course of action is simply not to use it at all. If, however, you choose to use it for any purpose, we reserve the right to make relevant judgements on a case-by-case basis and we will not enter into any correspondence. 

Q. May I have someone else edit, or otherwise help me with, my essay?

 

A. You may of course discuss your essay with others, and it is perfectly acceptable for them to offer general advice and point out errors or weaknesses in your writing or content, leaving you to address them.

 

However, no part of your essay may be written by anyone else. This means that you must edit your own work and that while a proofreader may point out errors, you as the essayist must be the one to correct them. 

Q. Do I have to attend the awards ceremony to win a prize?

 

A. Nobody is required to attend the prize ceremony. You can win a prize without travelling to Oxford. But if we invite you to Oxford it is because your essay was good enough - in the opinion of the First Round judges - to be at least a contender for First, Second or Third Prize. Normally the Second Round judges will agree that the short-listed essays are worth at least a commendation.

Q. Is there an entry fee?

A. No. There is no charge to enter our global essay competition unless you submit your essay after the normal deadline, in which case there is a fee of 20.00 USD.

Q. Can I receive a certificate for my participation in your essay competition if I wasn't shortlisted? 

A. No. Certificates are awarded only for shortlisted essays. Short-listed contestants who attend the award ceremony in Oxford will receive a paper certificate. If you cannot travel to Oxford, you will be able to download your eCertificate.

Q. Can I receive feedback on my essay? 

A. We would love to be able to give individual feedback on essays but, unfortunately, we receive too many entries to be able to comment on particular essays.

Q. The deadline for publishing the names of short-listed essayists has passed but I did not receive an email to tell me whether I was short-listed.

A. Log into your account and check "Shortlist Status" for (each of) your essay(s).

Q. The system will not accept my essay. I have checked the filename and it has the correct format. What should I do?
 

A. You have almost certainly added a space before or after one of your names in your profile. Edit it accordingly and try to submit again.

Q. The profile page shows my birth date to be wrong by a day, even after I edit it. What should I do?


A. Ignore it. The date that you typed has been correctly input to our database.

Q. How can I be sure that my registration for the essay competition was successful? Will I receive a confirmation email?


A. You will not receive a confirmation email. Rather, you can at any time log in to the account that you created and see that your registration details are present and correct.

FAQ

If you are unable to submit your essay to the John Locke Institute’s global essay competition, your problem is almost certainly one of the following.


If so, please proceed as indicated.


LOGGING IN


1) PROBLEM: I receive the ‘registrations are now closed’ message when I enter my email and verification code.
SOLUTION. You did not register for the essay competition and create your account. If you think you did, you probably only provided us with your email to receive updates from us about the competition or otherwise. You may not enter the competition this year.


2) PROBLEM I do not receive a login code after I enter my email to enter my account.
SOLUTION. Enter your email address again, checking that you do so correctly. If this fails, restart your browser using an incognito window; clear your cache, and try again. Wait for a few minutes for the code. If this still fails, restart your machine and try one more time. If this still fails, send an email to global.essay.prize@johnlocke.com with “No verification code – [your name]” in the subject line.


SUBMITTING AN ESSAY


3) PROBLEM: The filename of my essay is in the correct format but it is rejected.
SOLUTION: Use “Edit Profile” to check that you did not add a space before or after either of your names. If you did, delete it. Whether you did or did not, try again to submit your essay. If submission fails again, email global.essay.prize@johnlocke.com with “Filename format – [your name]” in the subject line.


4) PROBLEM: When trying to view my submitted essay, a .txt file is downloaded – not the .pdf file that I submitted.
SOLUTION: Delete the essay. Logout of your account; log back in, and resubmit. If resubmission fails, email global.essay.prize@johnlocke.com with “File extension problem – [your name]” in the subject line.


5) PROBLEM: When I try to submit, the submission form just reloads without giving me an error message.
SOLUTION. Log out of your account. Open a new browser; clear the cache; log back in, and resubmit. If resubmission fails, email global.essay.prize@johnlocke.com with “Submission form problem – [your name]” in the subject line.


6) PROBLEM: I receive an “Unexpected Error” when trying to submit.
SOLUTION. Logout of your account; log back in, and resubmit. If this resubmission fails, email global.essay.prize@johnlocke.com with “Unexpected error – [your name]” in thesubject line. Your email must tell us e xactly where in the submission process you received this error.


7) PROBLEM: I have a problem with submitting and it is not addressed above on this list.
SOLUTION: Restart your machine. Clear your browser’s cache. Try to submit again. If this fails, email global.essay.prize@johnlocke.com with “Unlisted problem – [your name]” in the subject line. Your email must tell us exactly the nature of your problem with relevant screen caps.


READ THIS BEFORE YOU EMAIL US.


Do not email us before you have tried the specified solutions to your problem.


Do not email us more than once about a single problem. We will respond to your email within 72 hours. Only if you have not heard from us in that time may you contact us again to ask for an update.

If you email us regarding a problem, you must include relevant screen-shots and information on both your operating system and your browser. You must also declare that you have tried the solutions presented above and had a good connection to the internet when you did so.


If you have tried the relevant solution to your problem outlined above, have emailed us, and are still unable to submit before the 30 June deadline on account of any fault of the John Locke Institute or our systems, please do not worry: we will have a way to accept your essay in that case. However, if there is no fault on our side, we will not accept your essay if it is not submitted on time – whatever your reason: we will not make exceptions for IT issues for which we are not responsible.


We reserve the right to disqualify the entries of essayists who do not follow all provided
instructions, including those concerning technical matters.

TROUBLESHOOTING
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