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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  • Download 24 audio lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
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  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 88-page printed course guidebook
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What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 88-page printed course guidebook
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider
  • Glossary

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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 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 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
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A perspective of economics from the Left. The previous economics courses from TC (Professor Timothy Taylor, Robert Whaples, Jerry Z. Muller) have a conservative perspective. Although I also lean towards conservative fiscal policies, it’s good that TC adds some balance by providing content from more liberal economists. I have mixed feelings about this course. Dr. Rodriguez’s material sounds more like he’s being interviewed on NPR radio vs providing students a rigorous intellectual framework for studying economics. If you often think about the phrases “compassionate capitalism” or “capitalism with a conscience”, I think these lectures will resonate. Unlike Taylor’s and Whaples’ courses, professor Rodriguez does not provide as much quantitative data. (For example, Taylor’s course has more charts of numbers, comparing countries, etc.) I watch all TC courses on video so I would have preferred to see more quantitative analysis to support Dr Rodriguez’s points. However, to be fair to TC and Professor Rodriguez, maybe presenting too much data is not conducive to listening in the car on the daily commute work. I don’t buy audio versions of TC courses so I can’t comment if that’s truly a handicap. On a positive note, Dr. Rodriguez is a fine and articulate speaker and I did learn more nuances liberal economics from his presentation. However, I hope TC adds another economics course from a liberal perspective with more quantitative analysis and counterpoint to F Hayek, M Friedman, etc.
Date published: 2010-05-19
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