Published on 30 June 2024
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Should there be a compulsory retirement age for society’s leaders?

In this episode of Crossing Channels, Rory Cellan-Jones discusses with Diane Coyle, Ruth Mace, and Paul Seabright the impact of age on leadership, the consequences of having older leaders for society, and the case for implementing a compulsory retirement age.

Leading experts discuss the trade-off between experience, expertise, skill and judgment as society’s leaders age. They draw on evolutionary as well as current examples to evaluate the case for implementing a compulsory retirement age for leaders. Finally, they consider alternative mechanisms – such as reducing voting ages, term limits and cognitive testing – to improve democratic responsiveness. 

This episode is hosted by Rory Cellan-Jones (former technology correspondent for the BBC), and features guest experts Professor Dame Diane Coyle (Bennett Institute for Public Policy), Professor Ruth Mace (UCL/IAST) and Professor Paul Seabright (IAST). 

Season 3 Episode 10 transcript

Listen to this episode on your preferred podcast platform 

For more information about the podcast and the work of the institutes, visit our websites at and

Tweet us with your thoughts at @BennettInst and @IASToulouse.

With thanks to:

  • Audio production by Steve Hankey
  • Associate production by Stella Erker
  • Visuals by Tiffany Naylor and Kevin Sortino 

More information about our host and guests:

Rory Cellan-Jones was a technology correspondent for the BBC. His 40 years in journalism have seen him take a particular interest in the impact of the internet and digital technology on society and business. He has also written multiple books, including “Always On” (2021) and his latest “Ruskin Park: Sylvia, Me and the BBC” which was published in 2023. @ruskin147

Diane Coyle is the Bennett Professor of Public Policy at the University of Cambridge. Diane co-directs the Bennett Institute where she heads research under the themes of progress and productivity. Diane is also a Director of the Productivity Institute, a Fellow of the Office for National Statistics, an expert adviser to the National Infrastructure Commission, and Senior Independent Member of the ESRC Council. Her latest book is ‘Cogs and Monsters: What Economics Is, and What It Should Be‘ on how economics needs to change to keep pace with the twenty-first century and the digital economy. Diane was awarded a DBE in the King’s Birthday Honours List 2023 for her invaluable contributions to economic policy and practice, as well as her unwavering commitment to public service. @DianeCoyle1859

Ruth Mace is Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at University College London (UCL)  and a long-term visitor at the Institute of Advanced Study at Toulouse (IAST).  She trained as an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oxford, and then moved into evolutionary anthropology. Her research has covered a wide range of questions in human life history evolution and behavioural and cultural evolution.  She is a Fellow of the British Academy, and founding Editor-in-Chief of the journal Evolutionary Human Sciences. @tavitonst

Paul Seabright is a professor of economics at the Toulouse School of Economics. He was Director from 2012 to 2021 of the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse. Paul did his undergraduate and doctoral studies at the University of Oxford, where he was a Fellow of All Souls College. Paul’s current research lies in three areas of microeconomics: industrial organisation and competition policy; the economics of networks and the digital society; and behavioural economics. His new book The Divine Economy: How Religions Compete for Wealth, Power and People, was published by Princeton University Press in May 2024.

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The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy.

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