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Festival Economia: A SxSW for Economics

Economipalooza? The Festival Economia is in its sixth year in Trento, Italy. (Photo: Giovanni Cavulli)

I’m giving a speech at the 6th annual Festival Economia in Trento, Italy, this week — a huge street fair financed by the provincial government and large corporations. As with Austin’s South by Southwest Music Festival, visitors buy badges and can attend any event. The only difference is that this is economics for the masses instead of music (and film) for the masses.
Why should a government spend tax dollars on this? I would argue that it educates the citizenry; but also, and much more importantly, it creates social capital — it creates cohesion among the citizenry that might otherwise be missing. That it also brings in thousands of visitors who pay for lodging and meals probably makes it attractive to local businesses too.