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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

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Why Economies Rise or Fall

Course No. 5574
Professor Peter Rodriguez, Ph.D.
Darden School of Business, University of Virginia
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3.5 out of 5
39 Reviews
66% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 5574
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  • Audio or Video?
  • You should buy audio if you would enjoy the convenience of experiencing this course while driving, exercising, etc. While the video does contain visual elements, the professor presents the material in an engaging and clear manner, so the visuals are not necessary to understand the concepts. Additionally, the audio audience may refer to the accompanying course guidebook for names, works, and examples that are cited throughout the course.
  • You should buy video if you prefer learning visually and wish to take advantage of the visual elements featured in this course. The video version is not heavily illustrated, featuring a variety of visuals designed to aid in your understanding of the course material. These visuals include charts and graphs that outline the collapse of the Japanese miracle and the rapid growth of the Asian tiger economies; maps illustrating the shifts of global economic power in the early 21st century; and more. There are on-screen spellings and definitions to help reinforce material for visual learners.
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Course Overview

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
 |  30 minutes each
  • 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

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Your professor

Peter Rodriguez

About Your Professor

Peter Rodriguez, Ph.D.
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...
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Reviews

Why Economies Rise or Fall is rated 3.4 out of 5 by 39.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Why Economies Rise or Fall I have absolutely no background in economics, but as an engineer I am curious about how things work. Professor Rodriguez did a great job of explaining macro-economic principles in a way I could understand. And he related them to changes in world economies through the 20th and early 21st centuries. He helped me understand what is important and what is not when I listen to news stories about balance of trade, values of currencies, inflation and other economic subjects. The course was perfect for me. It might be superficial for someone with a college course or two in economics.
Date published: 2015-01-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from 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".
Date published: 2014-08-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from 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.
Date published: 2014-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 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.
Date published: 2013-12-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Addictive My day was not complete until I heard at least one lecture.
Date published: 2013-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Essentially honest A refreshingly dispassionate look at the known unknowns in economy and at the limits of contemporary economic theories. Economy more as an art than as a science with all the problems that from this can follow. Many questions remain unanswered. Disclaimer: the content of these lectures may generate anxiety in people adhering to rigid views about how economy "should" work.
Date published: 2013-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Under rated A lot of what has been taken for ground truths in economics in recent decades, was actually very US/Western oriented BELIEFS, and economic models that embodied stupid assumptions (especially about efficient markets). Recent times have shown just how much baloney was incorporated into conventional economic beliefs. Youtube has a number of talks/interviews by Krugman, Stiglitz, Rogoff, Dean Baker discussing this. I think a number of the really bad ratings given this course were by people who did not understand that Rodriguez was implicitly addressing many of these bogus beliefs, without being direct about it.
Date published: 2012-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Economics Intro Dr. Peter Rodriguez offers a great introduction to modern economics. The course is short and very well organized. I both studied business in college and enjoy reading about the global economy and this course has done a lot for me by helping put the various pieces together in better understanding the complexities of economic systems. The greatest strengths of the course are Dr. Rodriguez's ability to simplify and illustrate complicated points and the clarity with which he organizes and communicates them. If you want to better understand the ins and outs of economics in our day in an easy to understand format, I highly recommend.
Date published: 2012-05-30
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Only course ever returned I have listened to 25 TTC courses and most are excellent and virtually all very good. This is the only course that I have returned and obtained a refund for. It promised so much but came across as very repetitive and lacking in depth. If you compare this with Prof Timothy Taylor's course of America and 20th Century you will see how shallow this appears in comparison. I love the TTC- it has enriched my life over the last 3 years and i was disappointed by this given the high expectation i had based on all the other courses i have heard.
Date published: 2012-03-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Why Economies Rise or Fall Content of course is good. Presentation of course is okay EXCEPT FOR too much repetition and "too smoothly" transitioning from one idea to another. Too easy to just get hypnotized by the rhythm of the professors voice. i.e. He talks too much and too smoothly & quickly. A book to go along with the course would be helpful. This review is for audio version.
Date published: 2011-07-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too much repetition I liked the Professor. On the plus side I learned alot! On the minus side: 1. There were hardly any charts or data. 2. Many interesting points he glossed over and I would have liked him to go into more detail. 3. The biggest problem was that he repeated the same ideas over and over. I didn't mind much but my husband found it way too slow and would fall asleep.
Date published: 2011-06-16
Rated 2 out of 5 by from slow I found this course too slow, simple concepts overly explained. I've had numerous exposures to fundamentals of economics before, so perhaps this course is better for those who are new to the subject.
Date published: 2011-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Business Prospective This is a course oriented towards business students and those interested in practical experience, specific examples, and the realm of the real world. You may get more from the course if you approach the lectures and course reading from the point of view of someone who is considering opening a new business or investing in a business and is weighing business and economic environment and how they may facilitate or discourage the chances for commercial success. Those who can’t imagine this prospective are not likely to comprehend this course. I found the course thesis intriguing, but admittedly found myself feeling something was missing after the first time through. The course just simply did not give me a sharp and clear answer to the question it posed: why do some economies fail and some succeed. The underlying answer is that there is no universal solution and you will have to figure out each case on your own. Those who won’t be satisfied with this approach and need to spoon fed all the course has to offer should stick to the courses taught by strictly economics professors who, lacking all practical experience, are always more secure in their convictions. A fair criticism is that this course also lacks much of the wit, well-turned phrases, and often frenetic pace of a Timothy Taylor course as well as some of his entertainment value. Rodriguez provides a decent progression and a pace suitable for casual listening, but I recommend a little withdrawal time after a Tim Taylor course before you take this one on. For those who have the time and inclination, I highly recommend all the books set out in the starter material. Everyone has probably read Milton Freidman’s book, but the others are well worth reading too, and all are much easier to read. I would also add Jeffrey Sachs book referred to in the recommended reading for a perspective from the liberal point of view for those who feel the liberal perspective is too often slighted. While some of the material is repetitive, each has its significant point of view. The second time around it became very evident the course has a message but you need to figure it out for yourself. Those who accept the challenge will be delighted with the results. This course is not particularly complicated or esoteric, but it is full of ideas and concepts that one needs to string together as the situation warrants and apply to each situation if one wants to begin to view the nuanced and deceptively self-evident theme of the course.
Date published: 2011-04-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from why the course fell flat Thomas Friedman declared the world is flat; regrettably so is this course. I listened to the lectures on my iPod and found the professor's voice earnest and his affect pleasant. However, he is not particularly eloquent, as so many Teaching Company professors are. (As an aside, of the many TC professors I have enjoyed, none can match the eloquence of Professor David Thorburn. His Masterworks of Early 20th century Literature is a great course.) Apparently Professor Rodriguez made the decision to use numbers as little as possible and this limited his effectiveness, as he often resorts to cliches and tired language to convey concepts best expressed quantitatively. Though Professor Rodriguez makes a number of good points throughout the course, and delivers a fascinating lecture on why Dell failed to capture market share in Brazil, the listener won't find that the intellectual returns justify the twelve hour investment in the class.
Date published: 2011-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best purchase on Economics ever I have bought and listened to ALL the courses in the "Business & Economics" section. This is the best purchase ever. I learnt so much from this course. I highly recommend it! It is the only recommendation I have ever written because I felt this course and the Prof deserved it.
Date published: 2011-01-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Insights This course is definitely aimed at non-experts in economics, and while readers who are familiar with the history of the 20th century will perhaps find it easier to put everything in its place, I believe that the main function of this course is to take a lot of assumptions about contemporary and recent economics and give them a good shaking. Rodriguez, in his charming, informal style, made me see things that I thought I had understood and put them in a different light. Instead of trying to forcefit everything into one economic theory, he goes to the data and says, This brought growth, and this didn't: Why? Experts in economics will perhaps be impatient as Rodriguez brings novices up to speed; true believers in one theory or another will probably get a little angry as he challenges their assumptions. He pretty much leaves ALL the theories either bruised or broken. But, like a real scientist, scholar, or historian, he takes the actual data where it leads, instead of trying to explain away what doesn't fit. In spite of his friendly, folksy delivery, he's actually thinking quite deeply and inviting us to join him in that empirical attitude.
Date published: 2010-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well worth your time and attention Five Stars. This course isn't just information, it's wisdom too. Dr. Rodriguez draws on history to remind us that the one certain thing is uncertainty. The world is complex beyond our imagining, he says, and our models, even the best ones, can never perfectly predict what any given set of actions will produce. This doesn't mean our economy is beyond understanding and that no basic principles or policies are possible. It means we cannot forget our world is the evolving interaction of billions of players, each pursuing their own ends in their own way. Because the world is ever changing, our judgments must be always open to revision. The path to a better, more prosperous, future is a matter of continuous course correction; the trip cannot be laid out in detail in advance. Economics is not a set of fixed doctrines, but a way of thinking informed by experience and history. As to presentation Dr. Rodriguez is both spontaneous and tightly organized. This is important as I am most engaged by lectuers in whom you can hear the thoughts putting themselves together in real time. You won't find a cautious and tepid teleprompter presentation here. I purchased the course in audio only and found that was no handicap. For me, his instruction did not need any visual support. I saved some money by buying audio and made it possible to listen while driving -- twice to each lecture. I did this not because the content was not clear, but because the demands of safe driving mean that some things are not going to penetrate the first time. Though I may not listen a third time in the immediate future (I have tons of TC courses waiting for my attention) I will likely listen again to put his thoughts into the context of things I learn from others. (I am going through the TC lectures on the philosophy of capitalism now, and am learning a great deal.) I respectfully disagree with the harsh opinions of some other reviewers regarding this course. In any case, because of the Teaching Company's generous policy regarding returns, learners can decide for themselves without risk.
Date published: 2010-10-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course and very relevant I really enjoyed this course and found it quite helpful in enhancing my understanding of the debates going on right now about what is wrong with our western economies and what to do about it. I used the CD version and listened in the car, so I appreciated that the course did not emphasize recitation of facts and figures that can induce drowsiness while driving but instead emphasized concepts. Professor Rodriguez is an excellent speaker, easy to listen to, and is I think very honest about how much we really do not understand about why some economies are extraordinarily successful (for a period) and others are not. I did not feel he was pushing a particular school of thought or ideology. So why have the reviews for this course been so mixed? I will offer a couple of possible explanations. First, Professor Rodriguez teaches at the UVA Business School. Undergraduate and graduate university teaching in economics would be more theory driven but in the business school the approach is case based and more pragmatic. I have taught in a business school and attended lectures by others there and this is a big difference. I actually think that this topic lends itself well to the case based approach. The TC should probably explain this in their description of the course since it may not be evident to many who are looking for a more traditional macroeconomic treatment of the subject. Professor Rodriguez has a short YouTube video describing the case based teaching method for those who are curious about it. (Search "Darden case study class" to find it). In the early lectures, a few times it did seem a bit light on content but I think that is due to adapting the case based approach to a situation where there is no actual case to be read before class and discussed in class. Second, like most of the TC courses, this is a survey level introduction to a topic not an in-depth treatment at the advanced graduate level. 12 hours is really not enough time to drill into these topics in the way some reviewers seem to want. In addition, in an actual business school using the case method, you the student would have to read the case before the lecture and be prepared to get called on by the professor and lead the discussion for the day. So a high achieving student would do a lot of prep work before even coming to class. And maybe there would be a paper to write for the class (using the team approach). There is no way (at the moment) to simulate that experience for students who actually want to put in that much work using only recorded lectures. The topics and ideas covered in this course are also addressed in detail by several popular books including Fareed Zakaria's "The Post American World: The Rise of the Rest", Tom Friedman's "The World is Flat", and David Smick's "The World is Curved". Like these and related books, this TC course does not provide any definitive answers to why some economies succeed and others fail but does give you a better appreciation for the debates on this topic.
Date published: 2010-10-16
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Lacking in rigor I found this course very unsatisfying to listen to for multiple reasons. But while some of the reviewers seem to think this is due to ideological bias at the teaching company, I'm not sure that this is a very useful criticism. Having said that, the lecturer does seem to strongly buy into the Neoliberal consensus, and as a result has quite a number of things to say that sound quite idiotic if this course really is supposed to be about "what works". A second problem I have with the course is that it's horribly light on content and analysis, and that at least 40% of every lecture consists of repetition -- this may be OK if the intended audience is an highschool/1rst year undergraduate one, but I've come to expect much more from TTC. The course is about the preconditions needed for economic growth, but it seems to me that the preconditions the lecturer discusses, and apparently buys into, are only preconditions for very developed economies that already regard economic growth (rather than social success) as their prime target. This is especially notable in the courses about the "non-western" economies, but even in the lectures about Japan it gets pretty weird. The discussion is pretty much textbook, with very little new insight offered, but the ending is simultaneously that Japan is in this horrible period of economic "stagnation", but at the same time it's one of the richest countries in the world, and still competing fairly well with all other countries. So what is the problem? This never becomes clear. (Obviously, the problem is "no growth", but why this is a problem if there indeed are no meaningful economic repercussions, as the Japanese are still very rich? It seems to me that this conclusion is based on dogma rather than fact). Apart from that, the course is also quite superficial in its treatment of the economies and economic problems that are discussed. Furthermore, there is an overall problem with applying the insights gained in one part of the course to other lectures. I am not sure if this is a failing of this lecturer, or the entire economics profession, as I've seen this more often than just here, but it's still disappointing. Regardless, it hardly ever happens, even though it is quite valid to do so in an "empirical" approach, which this course accidentally isn't. And that this isn't an empirical, non-ism course, becomes quite obvious in the lectures on non-western, non-'developed' economies. For instance, in the course on "inefficient/informal markets" he concludes from a 'case study' about the attempted entry of Dell into the Brazilian markets that the Brazilian economy was doomed to fail if it continues on its current course, as value-addition is happening 'too inefficiently', because Dell could not win from grey-market salesmen who knew how to work the Brazilian legal system. What he ignores entirely, though, is that this is only true if you assume that instantaneous reformation of entire economies into western ones are a. possible, and b. desirable. That is, he argues that they "should be able to find employment in some other part of the economy", while Dell (as the 'most efficient, best product-delivering' company) has a right to succeed. Never mind that this would result in an enormous decrease in wealth (because the profits made by Dell would most certainly not be made in Brazil, but rather in the US) through capital extraction from the Brazilian economy, while it would probably not result in an increase in wages or job security for Dell assembly employees. Additionally, it would result in lots of people suddenly not having jobs anymore, as they would have become 'superfluous', lowering aggregate wages. But this, at least to him, is 'the way it should be': Quote: "That creates a lot of employment, and it seems characteristic of economies that are different from high-income ones. It may also seem even interesting, but at the end of the day what it does is it breaks this process. It keeps more productive firms from winning market share. After all, as ugly as that can be, that's part of the game! That's how it's supposed to work, and that's why free-market societies tend to grow more productive and richer over time. If you interrupt that process, even if it seems to be in a way that is less damaging or apparently fair, you interrupt the overall process of growth." There are so many presuppositions that you have to swallow before this sounds even remotely appealing that it isn't even funny. The lesson to take away, though, is that he just doesn't like the way the Brazilian economy works, and that he thinks it should be supplanted by another one. How, dare I ask, is this "empirical economics"? While Rodriguez makes a few token points about how the US has caused quite a lot of harm in Middle and South America 'in the past', it apparently doesn't occur to him that it is because of exactly these kinds of sentiments that he here so innocently espouses that this happened. I would really like to see a course on this that is interesting, but I fear you won't be able to find a lecturer in the US that can really pull it off, apart from -- perhaps -- David Harvey, who isn't an economist by trade.
Date published: 2010-10-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from
Date published: 2010-09-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Diplomatic rebuke of decades old indoctrination Reviewer's opinion: Something happened with economic courses on TTC since 2008. Many of their theoretical courses were simply invalidated by the events in the real world, or how many reviewers chose to diplomatically call it – outdated, as if there was some time in history when the theory was applicable. The events in the real world demanded a change in TTC repertoire and this course is an example of a slight move in that direction. Good for TTC and their customers. Critical voices on TTC are scarce. When they do come through, their message has to be packaged in a thick coating of ideological sugar and fat in order for the degenerate western mind to be able to digest the crux of the course. This is the case with this course as well – not perfect, but it's a start. Actually, it might be the right way to go – after all, Darwin soft-balled and capitalized on already existing and much more radical ideas on evolution than were presented in his first work. The good: A lot of concrete examples on macro level are presented, distancing the course from economic theory and approaching economic reality - a quality desperately needed by every other TTC course on economy I have had the dubious pleasure of following. The professor tries in as polite a manner as possible to shift the viewers understanding from decades old indoctrination by free market ideology to something closer to reality, a paradigm shift for the westerners if you will. It should be understood purely as an attempt to jerk the mind out of the microeconomic school bench and into reality, not a comprehensive new theory, which is why I think it can get away with a lot of "maybe" and "could it be that" type of open question arguments. The professor dares to talk about power influencing markets and more importantly the destructive aspects of it. He pulls this off with only the most necessary bias towards free market ideology. The bad: At some points the sugar and fat coating is miles thick. If you want the realistic picture of the US affairs in Argentina, Chile, Panama, Nicaragua, Venezuela and other “places of interest”, you will have to look to other sources. The course starts to move in the right direction, but when all said and done it doesn’t even scratch the surface regarding the destructive outside intervention in these relatively much smaller economies and communities. Likewise, the course fails completely to work through the latest economic disasters, especially the food crisis, in any reasonable fashion. Due to these shortcomings, the entire course could be seen as an apologist rant for the status quo. Luckily, I am not that cynical. Summary: In a perfect world this course would be a disaster with little to no relevant content. In the world we live in it’s a good first step away from insanity that our economic community propagates today, at least as far as TTC goes. Some might find it depressing, but we have to start somewhere.
Date published: 2010-07-27
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Worst econ course I have purchased maybe 60 courses from the Teaching Co and this - while not the worst overall- IS the worst economics course. Prof Rodriguez is no Timothy Taylor who IMO is superb. Every other econ course I've bought was excelllent. What's wrong? If you are a "progressive" Keynsian, then maybe you'd think this course OK. He endlessly tells us that economics is NOT simple and that many different approaches can work for a country. 'Don't trust the "isms" he says. He mostly cites Keynes with nary a word of criticism. Or, if you've never had even a high school econ class, then maybe you would benefit from his course. He says things like, "It may seem unimaginable to you today, but the very concept of economic growth did not exist 250 years ago," and he says it many times. Unimaginable and hard to imagine are favorite phrases of his. Prof Rodriguez has a pleasant enough voice, but he repeats himself on the simplest points. In general, this course lacks meat and potatoes for anyone with a yen for deeper economic thinking.
Date published: 2010-07-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Accessible Lectures on a Complex & Global Subject Peter Rodriguez has created this course on one of the most important and controversial of all topics, truly one of global significance, yet has presented it in such an understandable and conversational manner as to give anyone a firm grasp on what can be a seemingly “dismal” subject to fully comprehend. In fact, the latter is one of the strong points of the course, since Rodriguez fully admits the many shortcomings in any attempt to understand economic productivity on such a scale. So it's not as if we are treated to a course on pure economic theory, explaining the history of the subject from Adam Smith, to John Maynard Keynes, and up to the present, including all the quantitative analysis and “isms” that goes with it. I imagine those aspects are more of the sort that Timothy Taylor would focus on. Rather, we are given access to an expert in the field, who will sit down with us and patiently narrate an introduction to global productivity, its history, why he thinks things have turned out as they have, and what he thinks is in store for the future, all in common, everyday language and terms. Since I base much of my reviews on the presentation, I will say first off that Rodriguez is simply a great lecturer, very polished. In fact, he sounds very much like another of my favorites, none other than Michael Sugrue. Since Rodriguez spent several years at Princeton for his masters and doctorate, perhaps there was some influence there after all? In any case, the delivery these two have going, is one of the best in the TTC repertoire, past and present, and that can make all the difference. There is also the right degree of intelligent humor thrown in, quite dry and not sappy in any respect. That sounds somewhat close to being like a wine review, eh? Now the graphics are such that they can be completely ignored in this course. Most of them are snapshots from old newsreels, while some look like they are created in-house. Yet none of them are worth paying attention to, especially since at times they don't appear to even be relevant! In other words, this seems to be a course intentionally designed for audio during the commute. One wonders how much better it could have been, with better supporting graphics, but as it stands, it's still really a great course. I find it amusing that they have Rodriguez walking around in the new studio, sometimes quite dramatically between breaks in the subject matter, striding up to things like a globe on some kind of podium! Now of course this serves no function whatsoever in order for the speaker to get his point across, and seems like somewhat of a waste. That is, other courses do in fact have good reasons for the lecturer to dramatically walk across the studio, in order to give some demonstration, display an artifact, or to pick up a certain glass of wine, such as in the latest course on that same subject. In this course however, it just made me laugh inside more than anything else. The voice of Rodriguez is really all that is needed here, although I do always try to get the most out of body language as well, so prefer video if at all possible. I think the content of the course is near perfect, not that I'm an authority on the subject, but that it seems to be objective, not favoring any specific country, any economic or political system, but just telling it like it is, good and bad. Of course he does express his preference for a free market capitalist economy, but also gives any downsides where appropriate, including negative US influence on Latin American economies. The lectures all seem to relate well to each other as well. There are overriding themes presented that tie everything together. There are many repeats throughout on the basic notions and concepts, but each repeat seems to apply to something new, or be presented in a new way that doesn't make it overly pedagogic. Rather, it gains you a new insight or perspective that makes you feel as if you can use them as new tools in order to further understand the subject matter. The bottom line for me, is that I think it's a course that would not only be useful for people who are already interested in, and know something about the subject, but it's all presented as straightforwardly as possible. Perhaps simple human intuition seems to be quite a useful prerequisite in order to get a lot out of the course. I mean this is all about incentives and how they lead to productivity, so that human side of the equation is emphasized, something we can all identify with. So the course could win over a lot of converts who want to begin to learn more about this fascinating and hugely important topic. I think that's a large part of what all TTC courses strive for in the end.
Date published: 2010-07-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from left unfulfilled I was left unfulfilled at the end of the course (at the end of the day) because the content was superficial, full of generalizations; I was anticipating more in-depth explanations how different economies function; there was a lot of repetitions that made me "tune-out"; I have learned some things and the information "cross-checked" with economic info from other courses (e.g. Chinese); prof. Rodriguez is a fine speaker, he speaks clearly, with a nice timbre of voice and perfect announcation: I can listen to him all day! if he only says "at the end of the day" less often...
Date published: 2010-07-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Falls Short of Promise Audio CD. I was intrigued by the task Dr. Rodriguez took on, but unfortunately I felt he did not achieve his goal. Dr. Rodriguez sets out on an empirical rather than a theoretical approach to macroeconomics. He proposes to observe the data and draw conclusions from history rather than from equations. Further, he quickly concludes that macroeconomics is primarily the aggregate of microeconomics (i.e., what a nation's economy does is determined primarily by the sum of economic decisions by all of its people). I was intrigued. Unfortunately, Dr. Rodriguez presents disjointed anecdotal explanations and he never gets to fundamental underlying reasons. He never explains *why* the economy behaves as it does nor how to guide the economy. I still want to find the answers to the questions he raised. Unfortunately, I guess I'll need to look somewhere else.
Date published: 2010-07-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Mostly "what" and not much "why" Prof Rodriguez gives lots of examples of economies that rose and fell. He does a good job of showing that there are many factors that contribute to success and failure. Some factors do not apply equally across economies. So the course is more about "what" causes economies to rise and fall and not much about "why."
Date published: 2010-06-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good lecture, but quality control lacking I think Prof. Rodriguez has done a very good job with this course. The Teaching Company, however, has not. Prof. Rodriguez takes a case study approach to discussing economic growth, rather than a theoretical approach. In the early lectures, he discusses various countries or groups of countries and discusses why they did well economically. The first group of countries he discusses is Western Europe and why it became so much richer than the rest of the world for so long. Then he discusses America's economic growth. He follows them in succession with Japan, the Asian Tigers, China, India, and Vietnam. At this point, in lectures 14-15, he summarizes the key things that promote growth: investment (e.g. infrastructure, training & education), productivity, competition, stability, trade openness, the rule of law, and stable property rights. While lecture 14 summarizes the causes of economic growth, lecture 15 takes this summary and asks "How could you fail?" He uses the Soviet Union as an example of how to do the opposite of these growth-promotion recommendations. In lectures 17 & 18 he looks at how corruption and informal markets prevent economic growth. Since Prof. Rodriguez uses a case study approach, he does not give much mention to theory. The Solow Growth Model was only mentioned in passing. He does not mention Paul Romer or Endogenous Growth Theory. In lecture 16, however, he does discuss Daron Acemoglu's research. Also, in lectures 19 & 20 he discusses the classic theories of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Thomas Robert Malthus. Prof. Rodriguez has an overly ponderous speaking style, with lots (and I mean LOTS) of rhetorical questions. Personally, I prefer it when professors get straight to the point. That said, he is very clear and easy to follow. Now I get to my complaint about The Teaching Company. On the DVD version of the course, The Teaching Company presents a few graphics that are downright wrong. In lecture 10, at the 5:25 mark, Prof. Rodriguez mentions that India and China made up about "80% of total world output" during most of their history. The Teaching Company then presents a graphic that incorrectly states "80% Growth". That's just wrong! Output is an absolute amount. Growth is a RATE OF CHANGE. The percentage of output and the percentage of growth are as different as night and day. In lecture 16 at the 12:45 mark, The Teaching Company again uses the word growth incorrectly. Prof. Rodriguez states that Dell only had 4% of Brazil's market share for computers. The Teaching Company then displays a graphic that says "4% growth instead of expected 25% growth." Again, the graphic is as wrong as wrong can be. Market share is again a percentage of an absolute amount. Growth is a RATE OF CHANGE. The Teaching Company really should have the professor verify all graphics that are to become part of the course.
Date published: 2010-06-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from
Date published: 2010-05-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very good course Referring to the DVD version of this course, the instructor is articulate and has a fluid, pleasant and effective style of presentaton. His approach to the topic, in my opinion, could be labeled pragmatic, which I consider to be one of the strengths of the course. While an admirer and advocate of the Free Market system, he has not reduced that theory--never realized in a pure form in this country (or any other?)--to simplistic and dogmatic platitudes. Rather he offers his valuable insights on the economic world as it actually exists in all its complexities, not as it never was or ever will be. My two criticisms of the course would be (1) the lack of more detailed information in the early lectures, information which could have been included were it not for (2) a good deal of repetition within lectures, and from one lecture to another. Having noted these points, I would still recommend the course highly. There is one negative point that did not affect my rating of the course because it seems to reflect a new Teaching Company policy rather than this professor's own approach. The Guidebook for this course, as well as two other guidebooks I've seen for very recent releases, have ceased to be detailed outlines with extensive bibliographies; they have been abbreviated to where they now offer just the briefest of summaries of each lecture and shortened bibliographies. For courses I've ordered over the past decade, I liked to add my own notes to the ample outlines, consult those outlines to clarify some reference made in a lecture, and to refer to the annotated bibliographies for further reading as well as the professor's own assessment of the works listed. For these purposes, the new guidebooks are virtually useless; indeed, they are close to being superfluous. If this, in fact, represents a new Teaching Complan policy of brevity, my hope would be that the Company would reconsider and return to the more extensive guidebooks issued with their courses from around the late 90s until just recently.
Date published: 2010-05-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Pretty Useless This is the worst TTC course I've heard to date. The title of this course is Why economies rise or fall. In each lecture, the professor does very little but ask that same question in different ways for 30 minutes. He repeatedly tells us that the answer does not lie in any -isms (capitalism, monetarism, ...) but doesn't tell us where it does lie. He talks about government policies in the abstract but never says which ones work and which ones don't. He tells us that economics is all about incentivizing the right behavior but says little about what the right behavior is and nothing about how to incentivize it. His explanation (or perhaps understanding) of the robber baron era and the effects of monopolies (lecture 4) is simplistic. Through all of this, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as regards his vagueness. However, when I got to lecture 5, the last straw was his apparent amazement that in the depth of the great depression unemployment was at 25% but wages weren’t falling. I cannot believe that there is a PhD economist who is unaware of the fact that the very Keynesian policies he was discussing explicitly CALLED for keeping wages up. To give just two examples, the federal minimum wage was instituted in 1933 and the National Labor Relations Act that raised union wage levels was passed in 1935. To be fair, in subsequent lectures he goes back from being wrong to being vague, so vague as to be essentially meaningless. There's two lectures about Japan's rise (1950-1990) and fall (1990-2005), neither of which tells us anything at all. Rodriguez has nothing to say about either the rise or fall beyond his ludicrous generalities which are more appropriate to a middle school classroom rather than a college-level lecture. When I compare this course to Taylor's America and the New Global Economy, this course fails in every regard. When you listen to Taylor talk about India, China and the Asian Tigers (all topics Rodriguez lectures on) you actually learn about what worked and didn't work in those economies. Despite the fact that this is actually Rodriguez's goal for this course the same can definitely NOT be said about the corresponding lectures in this course. I'm scared to listen to any more for fear of what I might "learn" that's as completely wrong. I'm also scared to listen on my commute for fear of falling asleep if I have to listen to any more of his platitudes.
Date published: 2010-05-21
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