POLS 150: Current World Problems Fall 2011, Ohio University

Learning Objectives

Course Module 1, Part 1 (For Class Meetings Sept. 13-22)

1) To understand the recent history of US policies towards home ownership, the subprime mortgage industry, and their effects on the recent financial crisis.

a) How have mortgages changed as financial instruments (and Why?)

b) How have government policies & macro-economic forces shaped those changes?

c) Are individual home owners or the subprime mortgage industry more at fault for the current crisis?

2) To examine the role of Wall Street and the evolution of investments (especially mortgage-backed securities) in the recent financial crisis.

a) What are bonds?  How are mortgage loans transformed into securities?

b)  How did CDOs work?  CDSs?  Why were so many investors fooled?

c)  Is Wall Street to blame for the financial crisis?  Why or Why Not?

3) To understand the government’s response to the financial crisis, as a matter of theory and in practice.

a) How did the collapse of the subprime mortgage market lead to a systemic economic crisis in the United States?

 b)  What sort of strategies were used by the Federal Government to stabilize the financial industries, and why?

c)  Were these the right strategies?  Could/Should the Federal Government have done more?  For whom?

Course Module 1, Part 2 (For Class Meetings Oct. 4-11)

1) To explore and debate theories about the proper role of a democratic government in regulating a capitalist economy.

2) To consider the political implications of rising economic inequality (through the lens of the recent financial crisis) for American democracy.

Course Module 2 (For Class Meeting Oct. 17-Nov. 10)

1)What is the "Global South", and who are the "Bottom Billion?"  What is the "Great Divergence," and what factors explain the tremendous inequality between the Global North and South? (Lecture)

2) Why does democratic government seems to ensure peace and accountability in wealthy countries, and poor governance and violence in poor countries? (See Collier, Chapter 1)

3) What is ethnicity?  What does it mean to say that it is "invented"? (See Collier, Chapters 2 and 7)

a) How did colonial policies contribute to the "invention" of Ethnicity in Rwanda and Burundi? (See Uvin)

b) Why (and how) did authoritarian regimes in Rwanda and Burundi use polarized ethnic identity to maintain power? (See Uvin)

c) How did the ideology of ethnic identity lead to genocide in Rwanda? (See Uvin)

4) Why are some places and some societies prone to war (especially civil war)?  What factors contribute to a greater probability of civil war, and what factors guard against it? (See Collier, Chapters 5 and 7)

5) What role might military spending and the availability of weapons play in increasing the risk of political violence int he countries of the Global South? (See Collier, Chapter 4)

6) What are Coups?  What factors increase or decrease the frequency of coups?  What are the economic and political costs of frequent coups? (See Collier, Chapter 6)

7) Does international peacekeeping work as a way to reduce the likelihood of future civil war and political violence?  Is it cost-effective (does its cost outweigh its expense)? (See Collier, Chapter 3)

8) Why are revolutions so hard to predict, and how can we understand recent events in Tunisia through this lens? (See Kuran, Lynch, and video)

9) What, if any, are the obligations of the US and other wealthy nations to the Global South?  How might these wealthy nations contribute to the end of poverty and bad government in the Global South?  What are the arguments advanced by Jeff Sachs, Bill Easterly, and Paul Collier in this regard--what do they propose we do, and why? (See Sachs, Easterly, and the last two chapters of Collier)