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Course Description

Reading Material



Paper Topics

Jens Christiansen




Discussion Forum


Paper Topics

February 6 Deadline -- choose one of two:

1. Globalization is often portrayed in the media these days as if it is a phenomenon of the past twenty or thirty years. In defining the term globalization, discuss why it is seen this way and then make an argument that it is actually a process that has been going on for at least several centuries. Provide some specific references to earlier time periods, indicating how activities at the time can be interpreted as part of a process of globalization.

2. The period between (roughly) 1300 and 1500 was a time of monumental changes and development in Europe. Elaborate on specific events as well as developments in science and technology, trade and business practices of the time that contributed to the process of globalization.

February 18 Deadline -- choose one of four:

1. Define and discuss colonialism and imperialism as phenomena of globalization. What is the difference between these two and how do they differ from globalization at the beginning of the third millennium?

2. What is the gold standard? How did it function and what role did it play in international trade and finance prior to World War I?

3. What is the Great Depression? Discuss its origins, its effects on the world economy, and its role in triggering World War II.

4. Discuss the nature and dynamics of interimperialist rivalries at the beginning of the twentieth century and how they contributed to the onset of World War I.

March 6 Deadline -- choose one of four:

1. Describe what you understand to be the Bretton Woods system and show how it tried to avoid the economic disasters and policy mistakes of earlier global economic systems. (Specifically the gold standard before World War I and the "system of bilateralism" between the two World Wars.)

2. Describe and analyze the origins, functioning, and collapse of the Bretton Woods system.

3. Describe the oil crises of the 1970s and analyze their impact on the global economy.

4. Describe and analyze the origins and consequences of the Third World debt crisis during the 1980s.

March 13 Deadline -- choose one of two:

1. Describe the global economic crises of 1997/8 (Asia 1997, Brazil and Russia 1998) and analyze their consequences both for the economies of the U.S. and the countries directly involved.

2. Globalization is a hotly debated topic these days. Grassroots movements have even taken to the streets to protest against it. What do you consider its advantages (benefits) and/or disadvantages (costs)? (You may just explicate its advantages or its disadvantages, or you could argue that both exist.)

March 25 Deadline -- choose one of three:

1. Present the conventional (mainstream) explanation for globalization based on A. Smith's and D. Ricardo's notions of free markets and comparative advantage.

2. Explain why Adam Smith's notion of free markets and how they work is such a powerful idea.

3. Explain the neo-classical economic model of how free markets lead to an efficient economy.

April 8 Deadline -- choose one of three:

1. Why did Keynes argue that the capitalist market economy at times requires significant government intervention?

2. Describe the concept of the balance of payments and explain in some detail why its current account and its capital and financial account have to balance each other out? Briefly talk about the current U.S. situation with respect to its balance of payments.

3. Explain in detail how the simple circular flow model of the macro economy works.

April 17 Deadline -- choose one of two:

1. Present Heilbroner's argument why a capitalist macro economy necessarily has to go through cycles of boom and crash.

2. From a Marxist perspective, explain in detail why a capitalist economy necessarily has to expand and what different forms that expansion takes on.

April 24 Deadline -- choose one of three:

1. From the point of view of the theory of imperialism, describe and explain U.S. economic involvement in the global economy since WWII.

2. Compare and contrast the two opposing views (imperialist and neo-liberal) of the role of the United States in the current global economy.

3. Neo-liberal economic policies have led to significant economic development around the globe during the past two decades. Argue in support of (and/or criticize) this statement.

Questions for Second Mid-Term Exam   



1. For each of the following situations, indicate how it affects the supply of and/or demand for Japanese Yen on the foreign exchange market and the value of the Japanese Yen relative to the dollar in the short run:

a.   U.S. interest rates go up significantly.

b.   Inflation rises dramatically in Japan.

c.   The U.S. economy falls into a recession.

d.   U.S. GDP growth goes up significantly.

f.    More full-paying Japanese students attend Mount Holyoke College.   

2. Briefly describe the meaning of the following terms:  

a.   Fiscal Policy.

b.   The Capital and Financial Account of the Balance of Payments.

c.   Opportunity Cost.

d.   Monetary Policy.

e.   The Balance of Trade.

f.    The Foreign Exchange Market.

g.   GDP.


 3. Suppose that the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the British pound fluctuates freely.  Briefly explain how each of the following events will affect the supply of and/or demand for U.S. dollars in the foreign exchange market and the value of the dollar relative to the pound (in the short run).

(a)   British oil industry imports drilling equipment from the U.S.

(b)   British central bank restricts money supply.

(c)   Increase in U. S. purchases of oil from British North Sea.

(d)   Fifteen percent inflation in U.K. and ten percent in the U.S.

(e)   U. S. investors buy stocks in British companies.

4. Briefly explain why from a Marxist perspective (Heilbroner) the macro economy constantly has to go through crises.

5. Explain why, from a Keynesian perspective, the macro economy may get “stuck” in a recession or even depression.  Why would neo-classical economists argue that this could not happen?

6. Describe in approximate numerical terms the U.S. balance of payments for 2000 and explain what has led to this situation and what the prospects are for the foreseeable future.

7. Briefly explain why GDP is not a good measurement of economic well-being.

8. Briefly explain the circular flow model.

9. Explain why from a Marxist perspective a capitalist economy has to expand continuously.


10. Assume an economy in which the consumers always spend eighty percent of any additional income that they receive.  Assume that businesses spend 200 (billion) dollars and government 100 (billion).  Net exports amount to 300 (billion) dollars.  Calculate equilibrium income for this economy.  Also calculate what would happen if the government decides to increase its spending by 100 (billion).

11. Why do Keynesian economists argue that the government often has to intervene in the economy?

12. Explain why any deficit or surplus in the current account of the balance of payments always has to be balanced by the opposite in the capital and financial accounts.

13. From a Marxist perspective, what are the forces that drive a capitalist economy towards expansion beyond its own national boundaries?