Why Economies Rise or Fall

Course No. 5574
Professor Peter Rodriguez, Ph.D.
Darden School of Business, University of Virginia
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Course No. 5574
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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
 |  Average 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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  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 88-page printed course guidebook
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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 88-page printed course guidebook
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider
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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 3.3 out of 5 by 48.
Rated 3 out of 5 by from What conclusions can we draw? Professor Rodriguez starts out with the premise that the source of economic success cannot be pigeonholed into this ism or that ism although he makes a case that a certain amount of free market capitalism is good. He also makes a convincing case that there is no sure fire formula to guarantee economic success. Unfortunately that is really as deep as the course goes. We get a fair survey of different types of economies. He notes that some really free market countries or areas , like Hong Kong do well while some hybrid countries like Japan also do well. He rightly points out that totally centrally run economies like the former USSR do poorly but neglects to note that both the USSR and China were severely handicapped by being run by unstable ( I refer the reader to the Great Courses wonderful “The Fall and Rise of China” and others) , totalitarian leaders like Stalin and Mao. My criticism in this area is that there is not enough analysis of national and global politics and its effect on economies. I was hoping for more from the course than the conclusion that productivity is important. Why are some cultures highly productive ( Japan. the Asian Tigers etc. and some others like Russia not so much).? In short I came away from the course with more questions than answers. I learned far more from other courses like the basic Economics 3rd edition and many others ( I am currently viewing the courses “Crashes and Crises” and “Advanced Investments”). Both excellent.
Date published: 2019-07-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Productivity! That’s the key! I found Prof. Rodriguez very engaging and clearly knowledgeable. He presents the material in understandable fashion at a proper pace, and connects dots well. The phenomenon that is modern China comes through in its proper context, and in contrast to less successful societies and systems. I feel I learned something in each lecture and I was sorry when it was finished.
Date published: 2019-02-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from It was enlighten by it So I must admit it was a little difficult to follow and borring at yimes, but at the same time as a vovice and someone with only a bachelor on Accounting it shed some light on some economics intuition I had. It definitely made me think of ways in which one can contribute personally to the economical success of the country through saving and good stewardship, an area in which I am currently not successful and likewise in the Impact of executive/branch Legislative decision making and how this has contributed in the current public debt. Therefore setting us back. To me is a very critical situation because what is the purpose to amount wealth if the health of your country economy is non existent. You need your citizens to have spending capacity but you also will want them to have enough reserve or financial literacy. I think other countries have achieved this or control their citizens by imoosing certain laws in asian culture.
Date published: 2019-02-04
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Simplistic, boring, with little subtance I have never reviewed a Great Courses course before, but I feel compelled to do so with this course. I don't like criticizing, but this course was, quite frankly, bad. The lectures are simplistic. The teacher speaks in abstractions and platitudes with very little in the way of examples or explanations. He will then go on and on saying the platitudes in new ways with no more analysis. His lectures en up being very redundant with little substance. He just keeps repeating his few simple points. It is almost as if he felt the need to fill course with enough verbiage to fill 24 lectures. This is highly disappointing and not up to the usual standards of the Great Courses (I have purchased dozens of Great Courses offerings and have never written a bad review before this.)
Date published: 2018-08-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Lecturer has many flaws I have struggled with this course. By now I have listened to and enjoyed dozens of Great Courses offerings: in my experience they range from good to superior. I have trouble understanding how this lecturer was chosen. He is a very inferior speaker, imprecise and almost agonizingly repetitive. I know nothing about national economics and wanted to take a course that would give me the basics. I am sticking with this (have managed, gritting my teeth, to get through about three-quarters now) because I want the information--but there's about two minutes of takeaway per half hour course.
Date published: 2018-07-11
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A Snoozer I'm usually a 4 or 5 Star rater of the great Great Courses, but this one was a snoozer. In fact, it's the only one I've ever not finished. The lecturer's points were sound enough, but he repeated them over and over. I really couldn't follow where he was taking his narrative, and a little over half way I gave up.
Date published: 2018-04-14
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A one-dimensional take on capitalism I do not like writing bad reviews but I do so in this case to spare potential buyers from this course. It is mind-numbingly superficial, insisting on the same general song, which always amounts to something like this: "You gotta open up markets, because that'll create growth, and if there's growth, people live better lives. So free up those markets, because growth will follow, and so will general happiness. I can't stress enough how important it is to let people engage in economic activity freely, without barriers, it leads to growth. We've seen it time and again. Sure, there were times when it didn't, but on balance, it usually does. So let's free up capital for investment and entrepreneurship, because growth and better general welfare will be the result." I struggled through lecture after lecture thinking there would be substance at some point. There is not. Jaw-droppingly bad.
Date published: 2018-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Realistic Economics. I greatly enjoyed this course and it's presenter. I learned a lot and also unlearned some popular economics myths (or lies). Highly recommended.
Date published: 2017-12-10
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