Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics
This course explores the intended and unintended consequences of cross-border economic transactions. How are people and national economies affected by trade, foreign debt, migrant labor contracting, cross-border monopolies over seeds and medicines, and corporate tax avoidance using tax havens? We examine the role of transnational firms (TNFs), asking who wins and who loses from such firms' activities, and from the rules governing them. How and why have such rules evolved? How powerful are TNFs over people and governments in the countries that host them, and why? Case studies include management of mineral, energy, water, and land resources; efforts to curb tax havens' facilitation of crime, corruption, bribery, and tax evasion; debt-driven dependence on private lenders and multinational organizations (IMF, World Bank); and the likely impact of proposed agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We consider standard views along with alternative approaches that analyze power structures and suggest solutions.
This course introduces students to the ways in which economists typically analyze issues, using models of how prices, output, profits, wages, and employment are determined. These models also help decide how the government can and should sometimes intervene-such as to reduce unemployment, or to use taxes or subsidies to encourage useful activities and discourage harmful ones (like pollution). A critical approach is part of the course: As time permits, we ask foundational questions about how economists decide what makes society better off, what is left out of the standard models, where power fits in, and what economic policies or arrangements best serve the common good. The course is designed to fully prepare students for taking intermediate economics courses such as those in the Five Colleges.
In the last two centuries, the gap in living standards between the richest and the poorest countries has grown enormously. Why? What strategies to halt and reverse this growing unevenness have worked best, and why? Some of our focus will be on poverty traps (vicious circles of poverty) and how to escape from them. Topics will include most of the following: What is development, and what is a rights-based approach to development? Food, land, farming, land reform, and cooperatives; project aid; violent conflict; corruption and predatory behavior; financing of development at the household level (microfinance, migrant remittances) and national level (foreign investment, foreign aid, export orientation, taxation, borrowing); and ways to gain access to advanced industrial and other technologies. Students will do in-depth research in teams on a topic like one of these, focusing on a country and time period, and will be offered the option either of writing a longer research paper, or else of constructing a game based on the real choices that actors face, and justifying its realism by summarizing evidence in a shorter paper.