CUA Summer Online – Politics 112: Comparative Politics
Week 4: Political Economy
Welcome to Week 4. This week we build on the democracy concepts we discussed last week, and introduce some of the basics of political economy. We’ll also look at the paper we have due at the end of the semester.
Last week we hinted at some of the relationships between politics and economics – this week we make those explicit. We begin with a founding document of modern comparative politics: Lipset’s “Some Social Requisites….” Then we look at a follow-up to that question, Przeworski’s “What Makes Democracies Endure?” Is it possible that no middle-class democracy can ever collapse? Why (or why not)?
Lipset, Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy, American Political Science Review 1959. Lipset at 35: a Review. (Do your best with these, they are dense and not easy.)
We shift then to the basic division in economics – what is the proper role of government in the economy? We are leaving aside here advocacy and opposition to Marxism, as a mostly 20th century debate. We focus instead on Keynes and Hayek – arguments that “the government can and therefore should have an active role in the economy, for economic and political stability” vs. arguments that “government can’t do well because it doesn’t know what price-levels for good should really be, and anyway every government intervention is a whittling away of freedom.” This debate from the 1920s and 1930s, sometimes word-for-word, is the same debate U.S. Democrats and Republicans (and partisans in other countries) have today.
Keynes and Hayek
Keynes thinks there is an important role for government in the economy, especially when there is market failure. His ideas became FDR’s New Deal – huge government intervention (spending and laws) to address the Great Depression. The government should prevent wild up-and-down swings in the economy so it can prevent the social conditions that allow for a demagogic madman to take power. (Ahem, Germany.) After World War II, he thought the same ideas should apply globally: elites (incl. elites in govt) can and therefore should manage the global economy. And so we get the World Bank and IMF. Read more about Keynes
Hayek was younger but a contemporary of Keynes – they argued directly with each other in correspondence, the academic journals, the halls of power, and occasionally in person. Hayek looked at World War I and said, the old order didn’t work – let’s try socialism. But then he did the math on socialism and determined that it wouldn’t work – it was missing the crucial tool of “prices” – governments can’t know how much stuff should cost, only the market can. Also, anytime the government gets involved in your stuff, it takes away a little of your freedom, until it’s all gone. Read more about Hayek
Our first video this week is long, but really pretty interesting. Get yourself a lemonade, settle in comfortably, and enjoy. At 39 minutes, it’s about the length of a podcast or episode of whatever you’re watching on Netflix. But it does a great job setting the stage. And, really, if you’re stuck somewhere and want to keep watching the whole two hours, go for it.
Next, we take two glimpses at politics and economics today. The first is a hangover from the 20th century: “the resource curse” – the role of oil on democratic development. The second is a prescient look at the power of social media in the Arab Spring and all politics.
Michael Ross, Does Oil Hinder Democracy?, World Politics, 2001. This is a very technical article – try to make your way through it. If you get lost, try this summary. Watch Michael Ross talk about this, in just three minutes (in the video below), or in 30 minutes. (Just depends whether you think oil and democracy matter to a country 😉
Clay Shirky, The Political Power of Social Media, Foreign Affairs, 2011. Copy here. This essay was in bookstores in December 2010 when a Tunisian fruit seller named Mohamed Bouazizi immolated himself in protest against the government. You remember Shirky from videos our first week of this semester. You should look at these short videos from The Carnegie Council (a think tank, in 2014) and from al-Jazeera, while the Arab Spring was underway in Feb 2011. Al-Jazeera is owned by Qatar, an energy-rich Arab sheikhdom.
End-of-semester papers. If you haven’t already, please find on our facebook page > Files a document called “PAPER instructions.” Read all of it, carefully. Then email me your thoughts about the kind of topics or questions you might be interested in exploring.
Think about how often we conflate democracy and capitalism – we can hardly think of one without the other. Each has explicit commitments to individual freedom. Think also how we consider the merits of a presidency – is the economy good or not? How much of our votes rely on whether we think the economy is improving or worsening? There are countless business and economic questions across the executive branch, Congress, and the courts.
Consider one or more of our readings in an essay-length analysis. Feel free to bring your own particular interests in “politics & economics” to the conversation (China, immigration, etc.) as well. Between you essay and your engagement with your classmates’ essays, you want to demonstrate that you’ve thought carefully about several of the readings and videos.
But first, a quick note on your paper. If you go to our facebook page, and then click on “Files,” you will find a document called “Paper Instructions.” Read them carefully, and then think about the kind of question you might like to pursue. By this Wednesday night, you should send me an email about what you are thinking about. We’ll go from there.
Our schedule for the week:
1 – your email to me about your thoughts on a possible paper question, by Wednesday night,
2 – your essays here by Thursday night,
3 – a news story on facebook by Friday night, (no fb news replies this week), and
4 – your essay-replies (to your classmates’ essays) here by Sunday night.
Ok – short semester, almost over – catch up, keep up!