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Why Economies Rise or Fall

Why Economies Rise or Fall

Professor Peter Rodriguez Ph.D.
Darden School of Business, University of Virginia
Course No.  5574
Course No.  5574
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Course Overview

About This Course

24 lectures  |  30 minutes per lecture

How can a nation create the conditions for economic growth and prosperity, improving people's lives on both the individual and national levels? And what, once these conditions are achieved, can it do to sustain this progress? Do any of the many "isms" under which we organize our economic philosophies hold the answer?

While an insightful understanding of different economic approaches has always been essential for policymakers, it is equally important for those of us who might not steer the economy but must still live and function within it.

Such an understanding is the key to making sense of not only economic events but of "noneconomic" news as well, allowing us to anticipate the economic consequences that can impact both the

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How can a nation create the conditions for economic growth and prosperity, improving people's lives on both the individual and national levels? And what, once these conditions are achieved, can it do to sustain this progress? Do any of the many "isms" under which we organize our economic philosophies hold the answer?

While an insightful understanding of different economic approaches has always been essential for policymakers, it is equally important for those of us who might not steer the economy but must still live and function within it.

Such an understanding is the key to making sense of not only economic events but of "noneconomic" news as well, allowing us to anticipate the economic consequences that can impact both the nation's economy and one's personal economy. And, of course, it sharpens the judgment you already bring to your own discussions of the issues.

In the 24 lectures of Why Economies Rise or Fall, Professor Peter Rodriguez of the University of Virginia guides you through a stimulating and, above all, accessible examination of what economists know and don't know about this elusive search for economic prosperity.

Discover the Truths of Economic Success and Failure

The last 200 years of economic history have offered us a wealth of information useful in probing the question of why economies rise or fall. Much of this information is rooted in several influential theories, developed by such famous thinkers as Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes.

Yet while economic theories are useful, in order to truly understand how economies grow, thrive, and potentially fall, you must also look at how individual countries use and apply these theories. Sometimes they strictly adhere to these theories; sometimes they adapt these theories to their own cultural history; and sometimes they take these theories and branch off into new economic territory.

In Why Economies Rise or Fall, you'll learn

  • how countries as widely different as the United States and Vietnam have grown their economies;
  • how countries like China and India were able to recover from economic reverses; and, most important,
  • why the critical test of any economic policy is its ability to productively alter human behavior for everyone's ultimate benefit.

By looking at economic growth as the result of incentivizing such productive behavior—"making productivity more profitable than all the alternatives"—Professor Rodriguez clears up an often-shrouded economic landscape. The result is a course that brings the economic strategies chosen by nations down to street level by adding a newfound clarity to key issues:

  • Why economies succeed or fail, what secrets lie beneath the generalized "banner" of a particular ideology, and what might happen when you mix them together
  • How economic bubbles are created, why they burst, and how nations recover from them
  • The challenges posed by the hyperconnected world economy created by globalization
  • The damage that factors like corruption and even the "informal" economy represented by colorful vendors and street bazaars can do to a nation's prospects for growth
  • How everything we know about economic and financial hegemony may change with the rise of China and the deep structural issues facing mature Western economies

Your Chance to Connect the Dots That Link Economics to People

In lecture after lecture, Professor Rodriguez shows you how to connect the economic dots of causes and effects with an approach that joins historical example with contemporary understanding.

To explain the impact of the Industrial Revolution on both growth and people, for example, he begins not in its urban factories but in the fields of rural farmlands, driving home how it was the lesser-hailed Agricultural Revolution that made that more famous revolution possible. By dramatically increasing agricultural productivity, it freed farm workers from their daily struggle for subsistence and made them available for the cities and their factories.

The results, of course, are with us to this day, and Professor Rodriguez examines both sides of the picture history has painted.

He looks at some of the most successful economies in recent history, including those of the United States, China, Japan, and the so-called "Asian Tigers" of South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan. He takes an equally penetrating look at economies that have experienced both pronounced successes and failures, including the former Soviet Union, Vietnam, and India. And he also examines those that have struggled mightily but have failed to grow at all, like Nigeria and Venezuela.

In a nutshell, notes Professor Rodriguez, "You'll see the world and how it operates."

Just as important, you'll be viewing that world not through the often-clouded lens of any "ism" or ideology unrelated to real-world human activity but from the perspective of the lives they actually impact.

"What all of these conversations and all of these schools of thought and ideas really intend to teach us is about how to get what we want. They're about a means to an end ... the chance to live a little bit better year by year, getting us to places that have equality for lots of people, or at least something near it; if not equality, then justice and fairness, hope for a better life, for stability."

To bring those lessons home, Professor Rodriquez brings a wealth of experience, not only from the classroom, where he has been repeatedly honored for his teaching skills, but from the world of business, as well. There, he has focused on international business and economic development, with a special interest in the economic consequences of corruption.

Corruption, in fact, becomes the focus of a fascinating lecture that reveals the key distinction between corruption that is merely pervasive and corruption that is arbitrary, as well as the profoundly different impacts each can have.

In the same way, he opens your eyes to the often-ignored consequences of the "informal economy" represented by open-air markets, unlicensed street vendors, and casual storefronts. Rather than being mere examples of local color, they can, in fact, be indicators of troubling factors in an economy. And they can exert a profound drain on productivity and growth.

Your exposure to this ground-level view of how economies really function when the "isms" and ideology are peeled away prepares you for a more nuanced understanding of the factors we see everyday in the economic world.

By course's end, you'll understand as never before both the benefits granted and the costs extracted by the "instant economy" that technology and globalization have brought us. You'll grasp what China's expected economic dominance may soon mean. And you'll have a new appreciation of the juggling act policymakers perform as they fashion each new "experiment," trying to heed history's latest lesson in balancing the roles of the state, the market, and the individual in achieving national growth and maximum human happiness.

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24 Lectures
  • 1
    From Free Markets to State Economies
    In this introductory lecture, explore the variety of national approaches to managing economies and promoting better living standards. Also, begin to face the key central questions of why nations choose such approaches, the trade-offs between them, which ones work, and what lies ahead for each. x
  • 2
    A Brief History of Economic Growth
    Grasp long-standing patterns of world and national growth and learn to meaningfully compare success and failure across nations and time. You begin with a brief history of economic growth around the world, with a focus on the pioneering work of its greatest chronicler, Angus Maddison. x
  • 3
    Economic Growth and Human Behavior
    Here, you begin to focus on microeconomics, learning how strategies and policies can influence an individual's decisions about investment, production, and exchange to generate economic value. x
  • 4
    The Birth of the Western Free Market
    With the basics of growth now in hand, you're able to see how the Industrial Revolution ignited that process in the Western world, as well as how the writings of Adam Smith influenced for centuries after how we think about economics, the role of the state, and commerce. x
  • 5
    American Economic Strategies
    You learn that while the United States is seen as a hallmark of free markets, its approach is actually a complex mix of state- and market-led strategies. You examine in particular how policy choices made during the recent crises may affect our future. x
  • 6
    America and Europe—Divergent Approaches
    U.S. and western European economic strategies sharply diverged after World War II, particularly with regard to state involvement and social goals. Examine those diverging approaches, learning how their subsequent economic and social effects have informed economic theory and shaped current beliefs about which approach is better. x
  • 7
    State-Led Theories of Economic Growth
    Dive into the details of "state-led" miracles of growth in economies as different as Japan, Soviet Russia, and China. Conclude with an examination of the risks and downsides of state-led growth and the enduring lessons of the "Japanese miracle." x
  • 8
    The Secrets of Rapid Growth in Tiger Economies
    The remarkable rise of the "Asian Tigers"—South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan—in the 1960s and '70s offer great hope for developing nations. But you learn that their methods and "secrets" often differ from popular recollection and don't always apply. x
  • 9
    Lessons and Limits of Japan's Economic Model
    Why did the "Japanese miracle" come to such a crashing end, and what does it mean for the world? You delve deeply into the meaning of Japan's decade-plus recession, learning how state-led approaches to economic management—and their favor in emerging economies—were dramatically affected as a result. x
  • 10
    From Closed to Open Economies
    A small economy today is not necessarily a long-term sentence. Analyze the amazing growth of India and China at both the macro- and microeconomic levels and gain fresh insights into how both managed to initiate rapid growth. x
  • 11
    How Can We Manage Global Growth?
    Does global growth need to be managed? Get closer to an answer by examining how spectacular growth in China, India, and other regions of the world led to imbalances, catching the world's financial markets unprepared for just how "flat" the global economy had become. x
  • 12
    China's Policies and the World Economy
    The most important economic event for the history of the 21st century has almost certainly already taken place. This lecture lays out the ways in which China's astonishing growth from 1978 to the present has affected the rest of the world economy and what its future growth will mean for the global economic structure. x
  • 13
    Merging the Theories of East and West
    There was no greater surprise in the 1990s than the sudden turn to growth in countries like India and Vietnam. See how these nations have merged theories from the West and East with their own unique histories to turn Communist and state-dominated economies into rapidly growing economies. x
  • 14
    Lessons about Economic Success
    Take stock of what you've already learned by synthesizing five key lessons about the roots of economic success, examining issues like the pace of free trade and openness, investment, confidence, courage in reforming, and sustainability. x
  • 15
    The Roots of Economic Failure
    Economies that fail can provide lessons, too. Embark on a multilecture exploration of what those failures teach us by looking at the causes and effects of not saving or investing, as well as macroeconomic mismanagement, plutocratic strategies, local anticompetitive policies, and geographic hurdles. x
  • 16
    Politics, Statecraft, and the Fate of Economies
    Although economic theories tend to ignore problems of exploitation or the interests of hegemonic powers, their impact on economies can be profound. Gain a grasp of the role that "noneconomic theories" play in determining which nations win and which ones lose. x
  • 17
    Corruption and Its Impact on Growth
    Corruption exists everywhere, but its substance—and impact in stifling growth and economic development—can vary widely. Gain insight into how corruption differs across borders and why it matters, as well as the challenge of combating something so hard to define, observe, or measure. x
  • 18
    Informal, Inefficient Markets
    While open-air markets and small informal stores might be seen as cultural flavor, they often indicate an economy overburdened with regulations, business taxes, and other challenges to small business growth. Learn how they amount to a rejection of the state's "value proposition," lowering productivity and deterring growth. x
  • 19
    Technology and the Instant Economy
    Explore the profound effects of communications technologies on trade, labor markets, and the interconnectedness of financial markets, eradicating traditional barriers of time and distance across economies. Also, learn how a reality once only theorized brings with it not only opportunity but challenges and vulnerabilities, as well. x
  • 20
    Possible Strains on Global Economic Growth
    Has the pace of modern growth made the Malthusian nightmare more likely or less so? Examine the potential for exhausting our supplies of oil, drinking water, and arable land; the impact on nations; and whether globalization requires some nations to be left behind. x
  • 21
    Latin America—Moving Away from Free Markets
    Despite their many successes, including those in China and India, free-market approaches have weakened significantly in the past two decades, particular in Latin America. Examine the roots of this dissatisfaction and how the region's left-leaning strategies might affect regional growth. x
  • 22
    Financial Crises and Economic Theory
    What are the implications of the global economic crisis of 2008–2009? Look at the hard questions raised by that crisis and the financial market interconnectedness blamed by many, including whether current economic theory is up to the challenges of this new order. x
  • 23
    The Multipolar Economic World
    How will economic and financial power shift in the second decade of the 21st century? Analyze the emerging shift toward a multipolar global economy—with China's economic influence waxing, for example, while America's wanes—and its implications. x
  • 24
    Driving Forces, Emerging Trends
    Gathering the threads of the previous lectures, pull together all you have learned to arrive at a strengthened understanding of the driving forces in economic growth, the trade-offs that all economies have faced, and the future of the world's major economic theories. x

Lecture Titles

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Peter Rodriguez
Ph.D. Peter Rodriguez
Darden School of Business, University of Virginia
Dr. Peter Rodriguez is Associate Dean for International Affairs and Associate Professor at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, where he teaches global macroeconomics and international business. The holder of a Ph.D. in Economics from Princeton University, Professor Rodriguez has also taught at both that university and at Texas A&M, as well as at universities around the world, including on the water as a faculty member of Semester at Sea. His broad experience as a teacher-which has produced awards for teaching excellence wherever he has taught-goes hand-in-hand with significant real-world experience in the realm of business, which has drawn on his skills as both an educator and a practitioner. Professor Rodriguez's private teaching engagements include work with the AES Corporation, Harris Corporation, Rolls Royce, and Visa, among other companies. He also worked for several years in the Global Energy Group at JPMorgan Chase, where his assignments centered on work for multinationals such as Royal Dutch Shell, Pennzoil, Apache Corporation, and Santa Fe Energy Resources. His current research interests include the interaction of globalization, economic development, and social institutions; the consequences of corruption for multinationals; and seed-stage finance in emerging markets.
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Reviews

Rated 3.7 out of 5 by 30 reviewers.
Rated 4 out of 5 by Interesting, but could have been 18 lectures. This course briefly covers the development of capitalism from an idea to its influence in the modern world. Then principles of economic success are laid out. The bulk of the remaining lectures focus on modern nations and systems that exemplify the different principles that are discussed. The lectures look at capitalism, communism and mixtures of both; but the main point is that a free market and incentives are needed to increase productivity in order to lead to economic growth. I enjoyed the lectures and the examples given. My only complaint is that ideas were repeated often, with multiple examples given to make the same point. Lots of times I found myself thinking: "I've got it, lets move on". August 23, 2014
Rated 1 out of 5 by A Less-Than-Great-Course (CD Version) A measure of the value of any course is to ask “What do I know, understand, or appreciate now that I did not before I took the course?” Regrettably, this course does not measure up well to this metric. After twenty-four lectures, I now know what Professor Rodriguez believes are the reasons for the differing economic histories of some nations. But, since he presents almost no data, no convincing rationale, no thoughtful analysis, and no illuminating insights, his beliefs do not translate into useful knowledge. In the opening lecture, Professor Rodriguez states his view that economics is not capable of accurate predictions. Hence he establishes the aim of using historical data to determine which economic policies are successful and under what circumstances. Professor Rodriguez then examines several important and contrasting case studies including the United States from the 1870s until the present, Western Europe from the 1950s, Japan from the 1950s, and China from the 1920s until the present. The stated objective of this series of lectures is an excellent one and the approach seems eminently sensible. Unfortunately, the content of the course falls well short of its promise. I found Professor Rodriguez’ study and interpretation of the historical data to be very superficial and unsatisfying. In each case, he tends to ignore evidence that does not suit him and to leave too many obvious questions unanswered (and often unasked). For example, in Lecture Six, he compares the economy of the United States to those of Western Europe in the second half of the twentieth century. Almost without exception, the only data that he quotes are values of GDP per capita. Instead of data, he uses phrases like “slightly less” and “income inequality”. Without any rationale or analysis, he ascribes the U.S. higher growth rate as due to “sharper incentives” and says that this is to be expected from economic theory. He does not quantify or even explain the “sharper incentives” nor expand on the predictive theory. In later lectures, even the GDP data are absent and too often he explains his lack of explanation by saying “this is really hard”! Professor Rodriguez’ delivery does not help the short-falls of the content. He seems to talk faster than he can think, causing him to stumble in his choice of words or use self-contradictory wording. He has a distracting habit of prefacing sentences by the phrase “If you think about it…” Worse, he repeats himself interminably on even the simplest and most obvious points. In my opinion, a course with the same depth and credibility (or lack of them) could have been given - in half the time - by any person with a reasonable knowledge of recent world events and the most elementary grasp of economics. The subject matter of this course is unusual and valuable but it deserves a much better treatment than it received here. April 7, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Well Worth It I wasn't sure about purchasing this course because I wanted a course that would not become bogged down in economic theory or basic principles of macroeconomics. Instead, I wanted a course that would give broad and insightful analysis to the interconnected global economy in layman's terms. Professor Rodriguez does an outstanding job. By analogy, it is obvious he knows every nut and bolt that went into building the economic sports car, but he doesn't focus his time on the car's engineering. Rather, he takes the student for the ride of a lifetime around the high speed track of globalization. That is, he shows how the economic successes and failures of countries reveal the how free, mixed, and command economies affect the world at large. How each may succeed at times and fail at others. His insights a keen. And Professor Rodriquez never loses sight that despite the global interconnections of economies, economics comes back to the individual, to his/her productivity and pursuit of personal reward, which is the heart of capitalism. He is clear, organized, and obviously a top notch teacher. Well done and well worth the purchase. December 18, 2013
Rated 5 out of 5 by Addictive My day was not complete until I heard at least one lecture. August 25, 2013
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