BY JANET TOBIN
Each year, students around the globe complete their first course in economics, but few get the global perspective achieved by Fred Moseley's introductory class last semester. To make macroeconomics come alive, the professor drew on the real-world economic and cultural experiences of his students, who hailed from thirteen different countries in Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe, in addition to the United States. To provide an overall perspective on developments and issues relating to the United States and world economy, Moseley facilitated discussions based on reporting in the New York Times, which he required his students to read daily.
Each class began with a discussion of the most important Times articles of the previous few days, and students often contributed information born of experience. When the class discussed the Fed's monetary policy, Olga Krivchenko '02 of Russia explained that monetary policy did not exist in her country because the banking system (on which monetary policy depends) had collapsed. Exchange rates were not an abstract topic for many students, particularly those from Asia, since many of them experienced personally the sharp devaluation of their countries' currencies in 1997 and its devastating effects. Siraprapa Bumrungkit '03, Surangkhana Martwiset '03, and Thanyaporn Ngamsappasilp '03 of Thailand talked of seeing the economic crisis in action there, describing half-finished high-rise buildings in downtown Bangkok.
Sharing such vivid firsthand experiences was a hallmark of Economics 104 throughout the semester, culminating in what Moseley describes as "a quick tour of the world" via student oral presentations during the final week of class. The assignment was to focus on the economy of a country, researching its current economic conditions, policies, and main economic problems and making recommendations for changes in government policy. Most students chose to focus on their country of origin, and many utilized the Web sites of their homeland's central government and central bank. Topics ranged from the Fed's monetary policy; the economic situation in Mexico, Sweden, Russia, Australia, and Uganda, among other countries; the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Thai economy; and the effects of the Asian crisis on Indonesia.
"Most striking were back-to-back presentations by two Indian students on the Indian economy and two Pakistani students on the Pakistani economy," says Moseley. "Both pairs emphasized the extreme poverty in their countries and strongly criticized their government for spending so much money on the military, instead of allocating these scarce resources to economic development. We realized that so much money was being spent on the military because these countries were fighting each other! The group concluded that these four young women should some day become the prime minister and finance minister of their respective countries, negotiate a peace, and devote their resources to the reduction of poverty."
Based on student reports, interest rates in Economics 104 were consistently high, investment was strong, and growth was steady--an economic pattern of which even Alan Greenspan would be proud.