Spring 2024 | Asia, Africa, and Europe Exploration

ECON 370 - Comparative Economic Systems

Overview of Course

Every society must find answers to 3 fundamental economic questions:

What to produce? That includes intangible amenities affecting well-being, such as health and environmental protection.
How to produce? How should resources be organized to accomplish desired goals? How will labor, land and capital be allocated (including to supporting the future supply of labor, land and capital)?
For whom to produce? Who (including those in future generations) will get the outputs and how does production reflect that?
Societies may at different times and places apply different criteria to make those decisions, emphasizing efficiency, equity, growth, and/or sustainability. Given the many resource types and the many possible outcomes, societies apply a variety of approaches as to who controls those resources (individuals? groups? government?) and how decisions are made (traditional rules? command planning? free markets?). Who has the power to make the decisions? In a global economy, each country must also decide whether and how and how much it will collaborate with other countries.

In this course we will explore these issues by developing a framework for doing comparative study across time periods, cultures, and countries. Using public information as well as our own observations, we will examine the realities of the countries we visit (as well as some others), in consideration of their historical context. What are the key aspects of each country’s system? How well is that system performing, relative to the country’s goals as well as relative to personal values we might hold? At the end of the voyage, what will each of us have learned, and where will we stand in our thinking about economic systems, and our assessment of the system(s) where we find ourselves living, and the systems in other places?

We hope our class will include students from a variety of cultural and economic backgrounds as well as world views. The professor and students will commit to respecting the diversity of viewpoints that may be expressed.