International Economic Institutions: Globalism vs. Nationalism

Course No. 5405
Professor Ramon P. DeGennaro, Ph.D.
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
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Course No. 5405
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Discover the origins of today's major international economic institutions.
  • numbers Learn about how these groups function as well as their successes and failures.
  • numbers Examine the causes of the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Great Recession of 2007-2008.
  • numbers Investigate the connection between the euro and the Greek debt crisis.
  • numbers Explore the background to the Brexit movement in the UK.

Course Overview

The philosopher George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

To see how economic mistakes can repeat time and again, you need look no further than recent history. The Great Depression was the result of a combination of protectionism, populism, and nationalism that combined with bad government policy to make a toxic brew that mired the U.S. and much of the world in an economic downturn for nearly a decade, with effects comparable to a major war. Less than a century later, the Great Recession of 2007-2008 brought a repeat of the financial devastation of its precursor, even if some of the circumstances leading to it had changed with the times. Similar events can be traced throughout other parts of the world, as exemplified by the Greek debt crisis that resulted when the nation gave up the ability to set its own monetary policy as it joined other nations linked by the euro as common currency.

These collapses demonstrate how easy it is to assume large-scale economic failures are isolated, both historically and geographically, when in fact they are immersed in long-standing philosophies and can have immense global ramifications. However, national economies are so complex and their ties to other nations are so numerous that it can be hard to know what lessons to draw from any given crisis. That’s where international economic institutions come in. Since the end of the Great Depression and World War II, bodies such as the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and G-20 have sprung up with a variety of missions, including promoting trade, ensuring financial stability, eradicating poverty, and advancing sustainable economic growth. Included among these goals is the ultimate aim: preventing a descent into worldwide economic chaos, which could easily lead to war.

But while such organizations are trying to knit the world more tightly together, in many countries the voices of populism and nationalism are objecting that the price is too high, that traditional livelihoods and customs are being irretrievably lost. Furthermore, such organizations have the failings common to all human institutions. Do they really work? Have some saved us from disaster? Are we better off without others? What is the best route to prosperity, and do these groups help smooth the way or obstruct it?

International Economic Institutions: Globalism vs. Nationalism uses these influential organizations as a lens to study today’s globalized economy. In 24 eye-opening half-hour lectures, award-winning teacher and economist Professor Ramon P. DeGennaro of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, conducts you through the dizzying array of groups, their backgrounds, goals, and the important roles they play in the economic life of the entire world.

In a lively and fascinating presentation that covers major principles of political economy, international finance and trade, and macroeconomics, Professor DeGennaro analyzes these organizations in depth to reveal their strengths and weakness. In the process, he presents a panoramic portrait of globalization with all its intriguing connections.

Fruitful but Flawed Institutions

Globalization as we understand it today may feel like a fairly new phenomenon, a sentiment bolstered by the rise of the internet and the increasing visibility of major trade agreements in the headlines. You may be surprised to realize that modern globalization began as an effort to prevent a repeat of World War I, meaning it actually took root nearly a century ago. The resulting League of Nations failed in that goal, as the Great Depression took hold, producing economic and political turmoil that helped incite World War II. Professor DeGennaro demonstrates the ways nations tried again in the aftermath of World War II, closely examining the institutions that resulted to form the core of today’s international economic system, including:

  • Bretton Woods Conference: In a set of agreements negotiated in 1944 at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, 44 Allied nations established a gold-based exchange system, the International Monetary Fund to oversee global finance, and the precursor of today’s World Bank to aid the recovery of war-ravaged economies.
  • General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade: Recognizing the role of high tariffs in the Great Depression and the rise of Adolf Hitler, 23 nations agreed to substantially lower trading barriers, spurring some of the fastest growth in the history of international commerce. This compact evolved into the World Trade Organization (WTO).
  • European Coal and Steel Community: In 1951, six European nations, including traditional enemies France and West Germany, took the first step toward a common market with the goal of making war between them impossible. That organization eventually grew into the European Union (EU), comprising almost 30 countries.

As Professor DeGennaro makes clear, these achievements have not been without setbacks. With each step towards globalization and economic stabilization comes new difficulties and renegotiations. For many of the institutions, the future is unclear. For example, in its quest to build a united states of Europe, many believe the EU has become too big and its regulations too intrusive, inciting the UK to vote to leave the union in 2016 in a drastic step dubbed “Brexit”—a rare case of an international institution facing mutiny by one of its most important members.

The Most Fundamental Institutions of All

Professor DeGennaro argues that there is another type of institution that is more fundamental than the panoply of international groups. These are the laws, customs, and practices that are the preconditions for prosperity, including:

  • Rule of law: This principle ensures that every person gets equal treatment before the law. Government officials cannot act arbitrarily and are subject to the same laws as ordinary citizens. In general, only a strong central government can provide this commitment.
  • Property rights: This bundle of rights governs what you can do with a given resource. It ensures that you reap the rewards from your land, buildings, businesses, ideas, or investments. In many societies, property can be taken away on a whim.
  • Economic freedom: Rule of law and property rights are just two aspects of economic freedom, which also includes free markets, the right to compete, freedom of contract, and open access to political power—as opposed to a narrow elite holding all power.

In International Economic Institutions, you see how the two types of institutions—the formal economic alliances and the principles of economic freedom—don’t always work in synergy. For example, despite loans from the World Bank and regional development banks, many poorer countries can make little economic progress due to their weak property rights and biased application of laws. By contrast, wealthy nations are wealthy precisely because they observe these guarantees.

On the other hand, the United States had all the essential economic liberties in 1930, as did the UK and many other advanced economies. Yet their self-destructive tariffs and mistaken fiscal and monetary policies brought the disaster of the Great Depression upon them. As you will learn in this stimulating course, there is power, safety, and prosperity in international cooperation—if done right.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    The Politics of Economic Institutions
    Begin your survey of international economic institutions by seeking the reasons that some societies prosper while others fail. Explore different examples from the past and present, asking: What role do institutions play in economic prosperity? Which practices and policies promote growth? Which hinder it? x
  • 2
    Financial Regulation across Borders
    Survey three types of institutions involved in international financial regulation: organizations such as the World Bank; state-to-state contact groups such as the G-20 (which is comprised of leaders from the world's twenty major economies); and trans-governmental networks like the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. When are they most effective? When not? x
  • 3
    International Anarchy under One Roof
    International institutions are one way to manage rapid technological change and globalization. At their best, they can make the inherently anarchic nature of international politics run more smoothly. In this lecture, consider the many barriers such institutions face to accomplishing even a partial level of success. x
  • 4
    Messy Multilateralism
    Joining an international institution almost always involves some loss of sovereignty for the new member. So why do nations do it? Also, why do institutions allow themselves to grow in membership to the point that it becomes difficult to function? Examine these paradoxes as they play out in groups such as the European Union and World Trade Organization. x
  • 5
    The Fed and the Roles of Central Banks
    Study the role of central banks, focusing on the First Bank of the United States, championed by Alexander Hamilton, the Second Bank of the United States, rejected by President Andrew Jackson, and the evolution of the Federal Reserve System, established in the wake of bank panics around the turn of the 20th century. x
  • 6
    The Pre-World War II Rise of Big Government
    The rise of international economic institutions appears to be linked to the growth of big government. Explore the features of two prominent political systems: totalitarianism and democracy. Discover the reasons that supranational organizations appeal to each. Then look at the trend toward inflexibility in complex societies and the risk this poses for societal collapse. x
  • 7
    Interest Groups, the State, and Corporatism
    Around the world, nations have adopted big government and command economies to varying degrees, and countries have organized themselves in different ways. Focus on the fundamental features of capitalism, communism, and corporatism—the last involving political control by large interest groups. x
  • 8
    The World Bank, Poverty, and Violence
    Established at the end of World War II, the World Bank has achieved mixed results in its mission to reduce poverty in the developing world. Consider the difficulty of promoting growth in countries plagued by corruption, frequent regime change, and violence. In this light, explore the bank's recent change in strategy. x
  • 9
    Group Choices: Rock, Paper, Scissors
    Examine the steps needed to reach an agreement between an organization and a client nation, along with the incentives that smooth the way toward compliance. As a surprising but instructive example, look at a vote taken by the men of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805 and see how the voting rules and time of the vote affect outcomes. x
  • 10
    The United Nations: A League of Its Own
    Chartered in 1946, the United Nations rose from the ashes of its failed predecessor, the League of Nations. Trace the evolving mission of the UN, its financing, growing membership, and the division between the General Assembly and Security Council. Weigh the strengths and weaknesses of this quintessential supranational group. x
  • 11
    Exchange Rates and the Gold Standard
    Start a series of lectures that analyze the turmoil in international economic relations that led to the Great Depression and its aftermath. Here, focus on the function of the gold standard in stabilizing exchange rates, how this system began to break down after World War I, and the role of gold in the ensuing deflation crisis. x
  • 12
    What Caused the Great Depression?
    The Great Depression is the mother of many of today's international economic institutions. Comparable to a major war in its impact, this protracted era of suffering still eludes definitive explanation. Examine the events that helped trigger the Depression and the litany of policy mistakes that turned a bad situation into a catastrophe. x
  • 13
    "Higgledy Piggledy": F. D. R.’s Stimulus Plan
    One popular school of thought credits President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal with putting the U.S. on the road to recovery during the Great Depression. But did it help or hinder recovery? Dig into Roosevelt's spending programs and his policies in areas such as anti-trust enforcement. Follow the economy through World War II and after. x
  • 14
    The Bank for International Settlements
    Founded in 1930, the Bank for International Settlements is the world's oldest international financial organization, established to help central banks coordinate monetary and financial stability. Chart its controversial history, starting with the bank's earliest mission to facilitate Germany's payment of war reparations after World War I. x
  • 15
    Intrigue at Bretton Woods: July 1944
    Learn how the post–World War II economic order was negotiated in 1944 at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. This international monetary and financial conference had all the elements of a political thriller: a desperate debtor (Great Britain), a cocky creditor (the United States), allegations of espionage, and last-minute deals—all against a backdrop of world war. x
  • 16
    The International Monetary Fund
    Membership in the International Monetary Fund has grown many-fold since the IMF was established in 1945. Study the operations of this influential body, which was designed to deal with a very different economic and political climate than exists today. See how its original mission to lend to countries with balance-of-payments problems has broadened, with mixed success. x
  • 17
    The Asian Development Bank
    Modeled on the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank is a consortium of mostly Asian countries established in 1966 and dedicated to fighting poverty in Asia and the Pacific. Go behind the scenes to see how political deal-making between nations works in such organizations, where loans often come with tacit strings attached. x
  • 18
    The World Trade Organization
    Established in 1995, the World Trade Organization formalized the post–World War II drive to reduce tariffs and promote freer trade. Analyze the advantages of free trade and the reasons many countries resist it. Look at regional trading agreements, which are a partial step toward free trade but with drawbacks. Close by charting the WTO’s possible future. x
  • 19
    The Euro
    Probe the problems of the euro, the common currency of the 19 countries in the Eurozone. Focus on Greece as an example of the downside of surrendering the flexibility to adjust interest rates within one's own borders. Investigate the economic and political preconditions that underlie success for a common currency, comparing the Eurozone to the 50 states of the U.S. x
  • 20
    The Great Recession: Mismanaging Risk
    Watch as financial institutions take tried-and-tested tools—mortgages and derivatives—and, prodded by government policy, push them beyond the bounds of prudent risk-taking, sparking the greatest recession since World War II. Identify other contributing factors to the Great Recession, which started in late 2007. Ask why major institutions failed so spectacularly. x
  • 21
    After the Recession: A Bigger House of Cards
    Did the measures taken to speed recovery from the Great Recession help or hurt? What about new regulations passed to prevent similar crises in the future? Evaluate the track record of these steps and other hands-on approaches. One proposal is for a new international institution to enforce financial standards for multinational firms. Would that work? x
  • 22
    Banking Supervision and the Basel Accords
    Banks are supervised through a voluntary set of international rules known as the Basel Accords, which have been updated twice. In light of the inevitability of revisions to regulations, study a phenomenon called regulatory dialectic, which describes an endless cycle—from interest group demands, to government actions, to industry adaptation and exploitation of loopholes, and back to the beginning. x
  • 23
    A Unified Europe, and Then Brexit
    Underway since the end of World War II, European unification has progressed from the European Coal and Steel Community to today's expansive European Union, including the Eurozone monetary union. Explore the distinct advantages of unification, along with the drawbacks that led the UK to vote in 2016 to leave the EU in a step known as Brexit. x
  • 24
    The G-Zero Era of Instability
    The “G” groups are informal blocs of countries that meet to decide economic issues of their mutual interest. Focus on the Groups of Seven and Twenty, comprised of the world’s major economies. Consider whether we are now in an era of “G-Zero,” when no single nation has enough power to take the lead. What might this mean for global economic stability? x

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Your professor

Ramon P. DeGennaro

About Your Professor

Ramon P. DeGennaro, Ph.D.
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Dr. Ramon P. DeGennaro is the CBA Professor in Banking and Finance at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In addition, he consults in the areas of business valuation, investments, and financial management and is a Luminary Member of the Angel Capital Group. He also served as a Visiting Scholar at the Federal Reserve Banks of Cleveland and Atlanta and for the American Institute for Economic Research. Professor...
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International Economic Institutions: Globalism vs. Nationalism is rated 3.7 out of 5 by 38.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative A well done overview of the history and concepts of national and global economic policies. Professor DeGennaro is as entertaining as he is knowledgeable.
Date published: 2020-08-23
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Biased and uninformative I was hoping to get a course on how these international organizations worked, or didn't work presented in the even handed way that The Great Courses' teachers do. I have viewed or listened to dozens of these courses and most but not all are very good and often great. I have many favorite teachers. This course is an exception. First it should be titled "My argument against all international organizations (they are corrupt and ineffective) and why we should just let the Countries battle it out ". or maybe "a selective history of international organizations and how they went wrong". Secondly the teacher cherry picks his sources and is so in favor of unregulated economics that if it weren't an academic course, it would be great satire. The discussion of the USA economy after WWII simply ignores the facts and the conclusions defy logic. In all fairness, there are a few interesting allegations set forth but the overall bias of the Professor makes me doubt the allegations. Furthermore the fact that human beings aren't remotely perfect and are easily corrupted by power and money is something known for eons and doesn't need repeating by the teacher ad nauseam. Some of the Professor's statements are just wrong. Most annoyingly he repeatedly contends that national wealth is essentially due to the rule of law limiting the arbitrary power of the ruler. Really? What about Saudi Arabia and many other autocratic regimes that are not exactly poor. This fuzzy thinking comes from the teacher's only. paying attention to sources he agrees with. Bluntly I should have listened to the negative reviews.
Date published: 2019-08-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Mixed Bag To preface, International Relations and Economic Development are not my strongest academic areas. I probably know a bit more than the average bear, but I picked up the course (audio format) as a way to fill some of those gaps. Since Prof. DeGennaro's comes out of finance and economics rather than out of political science, I was not expecting this to be a political science course and he did not disappoint. On the upside, I found it to be very wide-ranging, informative, and the professor's presentation was very engaging. On the downside, there are several times where I think looking at a problem from multiple perspectives would have been more helpful for the student than the single perspective Prof. DeGennaro used. For example, on the topic of the foreign aid and its utility in fostering economic development, he did an excellent synopsis of the work of Bill Easterly ("The Elusive Quest for Growth" and "White Man's Burden," among others), but completely neglected the contrary position advanced by Jeffrey Sachs ("The End of Poverty" and "Common Wealth," among others). To this extent, I think his treatment of the course topics was good, but not especially even-handed. Prof. DeGennaro generally does present pros and cons on most problems, but there were a few instances like this that jumped out at me. Based on the course title, I expected heavy use of an institutionalist lens, but the professor uses several different lenses that raise all sorts of interesting questions for which time constraints did not permit a more detailed examination. I do not expect that TLC will commission a course to explore them because they probably would not appeal to a mass audience, but I will keep an eye peeled because this was an exceptionally enjoyable course from start to finish. If you didn't have an interest in these topics before starting, you probably will by the time you finish.
Date published: 2019-08-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent, and timely course This is an excellent course that should be considered by anyone interested in modern politics. Dr. DeGennaro is an excellent lecturer, and offers a clear and concise overview of issues in today's push towards a more globally integrated world. The professor does a good job giving both sides of different issues, and allows listeners to come to their own conclusions while sticking to facts. This is a refreshing course that will appeal to realists, and I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2019-06-11
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Biased instructor can't be trusted I discovered pretty quickly that, as much as i liked the instructor, his political biases led me to believe that he cherry picked the studies to fit his bias. I started to not trust any of his conclusions because of how slanted the presentations were. For example, he cited a study on the Great Depression that is not from a main stream Expert on the Great Depression like Barry Eichengreen. He presented fringe research as middle of the road without acknowledging that fact.I came into the course with high hopes and lleft disappointed.
Date published: 2019-05-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A comprehensive and up-to-date report This course is a good review of the contemporary economic/political discourse.
Date published: 2019-04-20
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Boring, even for an Economist I am an economist who specializes in energy and natural resources. So it important for me to understand international finances, but it's not something I do regularly in my work. I saw this, and thought, based on many other Great Courses I've enjoyed, that it would be a good way to learn something. I did learn quite a bit. But the near complete absence of images, graphics, and videos makes this into a boring lecture series. They try to juice it up with a few silly gimmicks, like a fake newspaper that runs headlines about different experts the lecturer refers to. But it's pretty dry. I really knew little about the IMF, the World Bank, the Bank for International Settlements, or the Asian Development Bank (even though the last of these has funded some of my work.) I did learn quite a bit. But it was a slog. In addition, the lecturer's personal bias comes through clearly: he is a libertarian, far to the right of the consensus of economists. He even spoke of TARP as a failure, when it was clearly a very successful program, injecting liquidity during the great recession, AND producing a return for the government. He cites "experts" from the Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute, and Hoover Institute, three far right-of-center think tanks. And not a word from the Brookings Institute (center) or the Progressive Policy Institute, or Center for American Progress (left). So, if you have an insomnia problem, and want to learn a bit about international financial entities, this may be a good choice. But be aware of the biased perspective of the lecturer from the beginning.
Date published: 2019-01-07
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not as advertised This course is a series of rather cynical assessments of various institutions and financial structures. If this was to be a comparison of Nationalism and Globalism the professor got lost. Didn't someone at The Great Courses review this one before releasing it?
Date published: 2018-12-20
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