Rated 5 out of 5 by Castle Money is not everything
Practical course on economics, what works and why. Prosperity is more than having money it is individual achievement for the common good.
February 19, 2015
Rated 5 out of 5 by Jacqueline A ray of light in a tangled subject
Every day we are swamped by news of crisis and conflict.
And since the organizations supplying this information assume that most of us cannot absorb anything disruptive unless it is also entertaining, much of it is massaged into leadership blame or morality tales.
Occasionally, however, larger "structural" issues are mentioned, long-term trends affecting our economic well-being# Is the trend up, as it was generations ago? If not, why?
This is where the debate degenerates into personal anecdotes or strongly-held political biases# Economic concerns deeply interest us, but as a discipline, economics
• can either feel as theoretical and math-heavy as quantum physics, or
• seem highly ideological, with quasi-theological debates that never achieve consensus#
Dr Drezner's FOUNDATION OF ECONOMIC PROSPERITY tries to avoid these two foibles by starting with "prosperity" defined in simple, quantifiable terms#
Think of it as a 6-box grid where prosperity is explained on 3 levels: personal, national and global# And then further presented from 2 points of view: developed and developing economies# #3 levels X 2 points of view = 6 boxes#.
Having established this grid, PROSPERITY then introduces a set of "factors" usually kept separate in most news reports, as they bring up too many apples-and-oranges comparisons.
— PSYCHOLOGY: Is prosperity a constant, once achieved? Or must it grow to mean anything? Is it like a mirage, forever receding out of our grasp? What about the "keeping-up-with-the-Jones" syndrome?
— INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK: Man-made rules on education, public debate, economic transactions, capital investment and technological innovation can foster or impede prosperity.
— POLITICS: Countries are both entities on autopilot, relying on established procedures, and a perpetual struggle for power among tiny elites. This struggle remains important in democracies and autocracies, but its influence on collective prosperity can vary.
— CULTURE: How do national values and resources affect the path to prosperity? Can foreign aid make a difference?
— DISASTERS: What about wars and natural catastrophes?
What Drezner's FOUNDATION offers in other words, is a conceptual framework that allows you to intelligently discuss, or explore in a time-effective way, a very tangled set of important issues. Ethical, political and parochial preferences often keep us on the sideline in these debates.
They are also very relevant in a practical way, if you are involved in international business, diplomacy or NGO projects.
Does Drezner "solve" these issues in a way you or I will agree with on every point? Of course not.
24 lessons can open your eyes to the complexity of the issues without bogging you down in math or jargon. That is already a good use of your time. You want more? FOUNDATION is a great primer, no more. Move on to its excellent bibliography to go further.
PRESENTATION was very clear, especially if you read the guidebook before or after each lesson. The audio format was fine for me in this case.
Another TTC course, CUSTOMS OF THE WORLD: USING CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE TO ADAPT, WHEREVER YOU ARE, goes extremely well with FOUNDATION if international work is your specialty.
Strongly recommended, even if you have no background in economics.
March 2, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Ozymandias Wonderfully insigtful must have course
This is an absolutely must have course that provides a broad overview of the means by which individuals, nations and the international community can secure prosperity.
The key plusses about the course are:
1. Superb presentational style of the Professor who delivers each lecture with excellent clarity and verve.
2. It has really excellent and detailed lecture summaries in the course guidebook; arguably the most comprehensive and helpful ones in any course I have heard to date.
3. It offers a balanced overview of competing theories relevant to each topic/lecture; the final lecture for example looking at the ethics of global prosperity is flawless in this regard.
4. It is very up to date referring to events to the end of 2012 so is particularly pertinent to anyone interested in this area.
I have two caveats to add to what nevertheless remains a 5 star course
a) it was helpful that I had completed Professor Timothy Taylor's courses on Economics and America and the World Economy. They gave me a grounding to better understand this course. If you have very little or no grounding in economics I would recommend doing this first before undertaking this course.
b) It would have been ideal if this course was spread over 36 lectures; this would have allowed slightly more depth to cover for example economic history as well as the competing theories relating to global prosperity for example.
Truly excellent course and highly recommended.
October 21, 2013
Rated 4 out of 5 by Yearn2Learn A Prosperous Use of One's Time
This truly is an awesome course with lots of data and research studies to support the different "political economy" perspectives presented. If I could, I would have rated this course 4.5 stars overall. While "as is" this is a very good course with a few refinements it could be truly excellent.
In the first couple of lectures Dr. Drezner gives definition to prosperity both on a national and individual level and discusses the difference between prosperity and happiness. An interesting tidbit here is how T. Jefferson changed the text in the Declaration of Independence from "inalienable rights to life, liberty and property" (property nearly equated to prosperity in the 18th century) to "....life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Dr. Drezner then goes on to discuss the importance of entrepreneurship in individual prosperity. Quite useful is his demarcation of entrepreneurship into three classes: productive, unproductive, and destructive. Clearly entrepreneurship which results in new goods or services valued by the general population adds to the overall national productivity and is therefore productive. Just as clearly illegal drug dealing and extortion are example of destructive entrepreneurship. Dr. Drezner uses largely historical examples to explain unproductive entrepreneurship where corruption, bureaucracy or political power are used to gain excessive profits or what economists call "rents". A more current example he could have used is Mortgage Backed Securities where risky subprime mortgages were bundled, securitized and sold to investors as having the "implied" (but not real) backing of the US Government through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Clearly these (and other) derivative products are designed to provide their peddlers extra profits in the form of fees while adding no productive incremental value to the economy. Long Remember the Great Recession!!
Next Dr. Drezner examines the difference between how individual prosperity is achieved in the developed world vs the developing world. In the former, physical capital in the form of trustworthy credit and human capital (skills and education) are key elements of prosperity. In developing nations individual prosperity is hindered by a lack of the rule of law (ie bad governance, corruption, etc) leading to lack of trust or credit, and lack of information (education) among the populace to make informed decisions even about such things as appropriate health care options.
As for National Prosperity, Dr. Drezner does a very good job of explaining the importance of policy for the public good (and well intended policy for good which turns out bad), the need for credit and trust, and the importance (particularly to developed nations) of technological innovation.
He covers poverty in some detail in several lectures with various options for solutions with the somewhat obvious conclusion that economic growth is the key to eliminating it. He explores income inequality showing both its issues and merits. Special topic lectures include one on Prosperity and the environment which shows the value of sustainability practices.
Throughout the lectures he mentions the theories of many historical economists (Adam Smith, Schumpeter, Keynes, Friedman, Hayek, Marx, etc) and the research of current economists. He does show the failures of philosophy and theory put into practice along ideological lines both on the left: ex: Mao and Stalin and the right:ex: Peron. He gives examples of thriving economies that have failed and developing economies who are moving up, including the one with the highest growth rate among them all (Hint: It's not China but an African country).
This is a very balanced course presenting not only various perspectives and national economic histories, but also lots of supporting data.
With the review above one might wonder why I didn't give the course 5 stars. Well I thought about it but there were a few things that I feel it could use to improve it to that level. First and foremost, though Dr. Drezner presents lots of great data in the form of charts (line, bar and/or pie) to reinforce his points, these data often do not include the source. While I don't doubt that the data are valid, standard practice for graphical data presentation is to include a mention of the sources. In addition, the course guide does not include any of these charts. These would have been an excellent reference to have available in hard copy.
Speaking of the course guide, while the lecture summaries are quite good and the bibliography is detailed, the guide does not include a glossary or biographical sketches of the various personalities mentioned in the course. A timeline of events would also have been a nice to have.
Dr. Drezner is obviously using a teleprompter. He does use this relatively effectively and as such is always looking at the viewer. While his facial expression and intonation does provide appropriate emphasis to his points, his hand motions are quite repetitive and somewhat distracting. He keeps his elbows locked to his chest and moved his hands around in repetitive circular motion and/or side to side. I found after a few lectures that I could actually mimic and anticipate his hand motions. This may seem like a nit but it is an area for improvement.
All in all, I heartily recommend this course. Dr. Drezner presents valuable information about the complexity of economic prosperity. He correctly demonstrates that there is no simple answer, no singular policy, or economic or political theory that can comprehend this complexity. On the other hand, the unmistakable rise in prosperity since the advent of the industrial (and agricultural) revolution does demonstrate the value in improving prosperity of productive entrepreneur-ism and technological innovation.
There is much to learn in this course for beginning students of economics to lifelong learners who have experienced many of the world events highlighted in the course.
October 18, 2013