The New Overlords w/ Armen Sarkissian, Ali Allawi & Claire Provost

25 May 2024 – 14:30 BST
Newport Street

Former Deputy Finance Minister for Iraq Ali Allawi, openDemocracy’s Head of Global Investigations Claire Provost and Armen Sarkissian, author of The Small States Club, debate free markets and feudal overlords.

Defenders of the free market argue that competition drives down prices and benefits all. China is the poster child for this case with nearly a billion lifted out of poverty since 1990. But competition and free markets can also lead to dangerous monopolies, and higher prices. Entrepreneurial gurus like Peter Thiel advise ‘if you’re starting a company, aim for monopoly’. Critics argue that unconstrained capitalism allows companies to cement initial advantage by buying competitors, and using scale to dominate the market. They claim the world’s largest companies have gained success not by competition but by acting like feudal overlords.

Should we conclude that free market capitalism inexorably leads to monopoly if it is not constrained? Do we urgently need to break up or rest control from the corporate giants that dominate the markets? Or can we relax, confident that in time capitalism and market forces will replace the current overlords with new ones?

About the book

In this book, Armen Sarkissian, former president of Armenia, argues that small states can navigate the complex challenges of the twenty-first century in smarter ways than ‘greater’ powers. For smallness–often regarded as a weakness–can be a strength. It may induce insecurity in states, but also endows them with an instinct for survival. Large states are ponderous; small states can be agile and adaptive.

Drawing on his deep experience as a scientist, businessman, diplomat and head of state, Sarkissian offers captivating portraits of small states, from Africa to Europe to Asia, that have overcome seemingly insuperable odds to establish themselves as oases of political stability, cultural tolerance, technological innovation, financial prudence and scientific research. Sarkissian returns to the uncertain beginnings of these small states to demystify their improbable rise. Along the way, he introduces us to a cast of tenacious leaders with a knack for converting crisis into opportunity.

Widely regarded as the most respected Armenian leader on the world stage, Sarkissian ends with a poignant homage to his motherland. Part memoir, part manifesto, it is a stirring insight into the world’s oldest Christian country, which is at once an ancient civilisation, a small state and a global nation.

About the author

Armen Sarkissian PhD is a world-renowned theoretical physicist, diplomat, politician and businessman. Armenia’s former president (2018-22) and prime minister (1996-7), he has served as head of the University of Cambridge’s Eurasia Centre, and held top positions at Harvard and Chicago Universities, the University of London and the World Economic Forum.

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