Gordon Brown speaks with studentsOn September 22, Gordon Brown, former prime minister of the United Kingdom, participated in a question and answer session with students of NYU School of Law.

The conversation focused primarily on the state of the global economy. Throughout, Brown stressed the importance of a united, worldwide effort to solve what has become a global economic crisis. “It is not mutually assured destruction, but mutually assured disappointment if we can’t work together,” he said.

Brown also warned against the danger of relying on protectionism and austerity measures in efforts to fix the economy: “The real answer for America, as it is for my country, and the rest of Europe, is to trade with the rest of the world.”

During the discussion, Brown referred to Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, which, he noted, was written in his hometown of Kirkcaldy in Scotland. “If you come to Kirkcaldy—and I do encourage you to do so—this is the world that Adam Smith saw in 1776,” Brown said, describing the view of the ships coming in and out of the coastal town. “He saw then where progress lay. As long as you could maintain and increase trade, that was the engine of growth.... Adam Smith saw that 230 years ago, and sometimes we forget that today.”

In addition to discussing the state of the global economy, Brown also covered a range of other topics. In answer to a second-year student’s question about the controversial and high-profile execution of Troy Davis by the state of Georgia, Brown spoke strongly against capital punishment. He also commented briefly on the Israeli-Palestine conflict, dismissing what he sees as merely symbolic gestures towards peace rather than real negotiation. “Most people can see a final outcome here; the question is how you get there,” he said.

Brown is currently serving as NYU’s inaugural Distinguished Global Leader in Residence—“His most important position, from our perspective,” Dean Richard Revesz quipped.  In this role, the former prime minister has also participated in events at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, as well as the NYU Abu Dhabi campus.

Posted September 26, 2011