Archive for the ‘Topics’ Category



Written on March 12, 2013 by Ángeles Figueroa-Alcorta in Bachelor in International Relations (BIR), Culture & Society

By Rolf Strom-Olsen, Academic Director for the Humanities at IE School of Arts and Humanities


I have to admit that until very recently the sound “mooc” made me think, not of some bold experiment in democratising educational opportunity, but rather of the great Mookie Wilson, who, despite being a Met, was one of the great ballplayers of the eighties and, incidentally, the batter whose ground ball ended up defining the 1986 World Series (yes, we’re still looking at you Bill Buckner!).

But move over Mookie, the world of the Massive Open Online Course has arrived. And not that long ago either. If we excavate on Wikipedia, as the site for internet archaeology, we find that the term garners an article only in 2011, and, for a long time thereafter, is tended to by only a few ardent enthusiasts (there is even the obligatory suggested deletion for new articles of uncertain value). However, the MOOC has had a fast ascent into the world of higher education since then, propelled by:
(1) the remarkable success of several high profile sites that have become focal points for online course in drawing offerings from very reputable institutions;
(2) angst-ridden hand-wringing about the very future of the academy, largely playing out in the pages of publications like the CHE; and
(3) apparently significant public buy-in.

When I was approached by my institution to offer a class in the uncertain world of MOOCs, it was this last point – public interest – that was largely unknown to me. I mean, how many people are there that want to follow an online class in Aboriginal Worldviews and Education or Combinatorial Game Theory?

Ok, so I know the answer to that now. Lots! Really an astonishingly large number, as in (cf. Douglas Adams) vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly large. Coursera, the platform on which my class appears, generates enrolments of certainly tens, and for some of the more popular courses, perhaps hundreds of thousands of participants. Now the drop out rate is also very high – which makes sense, since the model encourages more or less blanket enrolment for any class that seems even remotely appealing, followed by mass exodus when the reality of listening to people like me for six weeks kicks in.  But when you have 50,000 people signed up, even a 95% dropout rate leaves you with 2,500 following the class. Which makes such courses an order of magnitude bigger than the typical large college lecture class.

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By Diego Sánchez de la Cruz, alumnus of the Master in International Relations (MIR)


Throughout the second half of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century, asymmetric warfare became a central issue in international affairs. States are now trying to adjust their security agenda to the new threats represented by non-state actors, yet the learning process is long and sustainable solutions are hard to find.

In the field of economics, a similar situation is slowly unfolding. Developed economies had grown accustomed to a world were free market capitalism was the norm. Regardless of the several examples of state intervention that undermine such regime of economic liberalism, radical proposals of socialist and interventionist thinkers had slowly been forgotten and discarded.

This “end of history” scenario did move several emerging economies towards the laissez faire paradigm, yet some of these new actors have adopted their own alternative model in what most authors call “state capitalism”. Superpowers like China are a good example of this hybrid were the state now enforces economic dirigisme in a more complex way. Central planning is no longer the norm in these countries, so the private sector can actually develop through capitalist means, but only as long as it stays under direct or indirect control by the State.

Since “state capitalism” is an asymmetric challenge to free market capitalism, it is only normal than economic tensions go up as both models gravitate towards each other. Protectionism remains the most obvious example of what may happen if both systems are unable to coexist, yet another troublesome scenario that is often overlooked is that of monetary tensions.

Developed economies should be aware of this. In most aspects, capitalist countries hold the advantage over “state capitalist” countries because their higher degree of competition enhances efficiency in the market and thus promotes a more vibrant and dynamic economy. However, in the field of monetary policy, the State holds a monopoly over money in both models, thus eliminating what could be a very important comparative advantage for the more developed economies.

It is true that China’s manipulation of the yuan has upset several capitalist economies. However, central bankers in those countries can hardly make a case against monetary manipulation while they apply all sorts of discretionary measures (i.e. quantitative easing) to try and tackle the on-going crisis. In the end, both systems are guilty of the same sin: manipulating their currencies to avoid painful yet necessary reforms.

In the end, if the capitalist countries want to remain ahead of the “state capitalism” bloc, they must free their monetary system and allow currency competition once and for all. While this important step is not yet taken, holding a monopoly over money will lead to an underperforming economy were inflation is the norm, asset bubbles boom and bust in a recurrent way and socioeconomic progress is mediocre.

Diego Sánchez de la Cruz is an analyst at Libertad Digital. His work on international economics has been published in different media outlets.


So Long, Chávez

Written on March 6, 2013 by Ángeles Figueroa-Alcorta in Americas, Democracy & Human Rights, Foreign Policy, Political Economy

Where Does This Leave Venezuela?

By Michael Shifter


Two decades ago, following the end of the Cold War, the United States and Latin America seemed more prepared than ever before to forge political and economic partnerships. Latin America was emerging from an era of stagnation and economic crisis and appeared to be moving toward market economies and liberal democracies. In the early 1990s, building on U.S. President George H. W. Bush’s widely applauded vision of a hemisphere-wide free-trade zone, Mexico, Canada, and the United States negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement. At the Organization of American States’ conference in 1991, which brought together 34 countries, a landmark agreement codified collective pro-democracy actions. Continuing this trend, the hemisphere’s democratically elected leaders gathered for the first-ever Summit of the Americas in 1994 and confirmed their deepening commitment to democratic principles, growth-oriented economic policies, and broad U.S.–Latin American cooperation. Words like “consensus” and “community” were used to capture the sense of good will.

Since 1999, however, when the recently deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez came to power, the sense of community in the region has dissipated. Policy divergences among Latin American countries have become sharper; free trade and liberal democracy are no longer popular goals; and Latin America and the United States have, albeit cordially, gone their separate ways. Admittedly, generalizations about Latin America are risky; after all, for every country that has deviated from democratic norms, another has moved toward them. And Chávez was not single-handedly responsible for deflating the hopeful spirit that prevailed two decades ago. But his relentless defiance of Washington and its chief allies — often accompanied by aggressive, even belligerent, rhetoric — polarized the region.

To be sure, Chávez’s boldness partially helped inspire pride and political self-confidence in the region, in addition to revitalizing the dream of leftist revolution in Latin America. Chávez’s contributions, however, were minimal compared with the positive impact of larger and more important factors, such as the rise of Brazil, the commodity boom, the growing assertiveness of many of the region’s countries, and the acute fiscal and political shortcomings of the United States.

Far from unifying Latin America and thereby realizing the vision of Chávez’s hero, nineteenth-century independence leader Simón Bolívar, Chávez contributed to the fragmentation of the hemisphere. His attempts at regional cooperation, such as the socialist Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), appealed to only a handful of like-minded countries. After all, both at home and abroad, Chávez was mainly intent on accumulating power, not fostering cooperation. That is what motivated him to curtail Washington’s influence in Latin America and around the world.

As published in on March 5, 2013.


By Timothy Palmer, current student in the IE Master in International Relations (MIR)


In Plato’s Parable of the Cave he tells a story of prisoners who grew up and spent all their lives inside a cave. The cave was all they ever knew or saw. Due to their conditions they became accustomed to the darkness and the occasional shadows of passersby. One day one of the prisoners was freed and allowed to leave the cave. After the initial shock of sunlight upon leaving the cave, he was amazed at all he saw…instead of shadows, there were real people walking, animals, buildings. Although upon his return to the cave, none of the other prisoners believed what this man had seen since all they knew and all they believed were the shadows.

Plato’s famous parable can be interpreted a number of ways, one of those is that what we don’t see what we choose to ignore (even though Plato’s prisoners weren’t exactly ignoring the outside world) It’s no national secret that the U.S. places high importance on its relationship with Israel. Since 1985, we have been providing over $3 billion annually to support Israeli defense efforts. We are their single largest trading partner and Congress just approved another 3-year extension on Israeli debt, signifying a boost to the Israeli economy and a sure sign that diplomatic ties between the two allies are just as smooth as ever.

Some would argue however that the United States’ cozy relationship with Israel is damaging American presence in the Middle East while creating a misguided U.S. foreign policy in the ever-increasingly important region. Surely there’s more to one of the largest regions in the world than Israel and oil. For example, the EU is the number one trading partner of Iran, making up almost 1/3 or Iranian exports. The 27 European Union nations make up nearly 20% of total Iranian trade, while the United States comprises just 0.1%. In 2010, the U.S. government reinitiated sanctions on Iranian agricultural and other goods.

There is also the little issue of nuclear capability. The United States government along with Israel has been sweating at the thought of a nuclear capable Iran. Even with a Democratic majority, Congress and the administration are taking a hard line on Iran, not so much for post-9/11 sentiment but for the U.S.’s ally in the Middle East. U.S. officials don’t want to see Israel take matters into their own hands, and in doing so are enacting foreign policy not in the U.S.’s best interest, but in Israel’s. We have screamed and hollered, and created an unnecessary enemy out of Iran, but there is opportunity to change. Much like Obama’s Russia reset, the nomination of John Kerry as Secretary of State, and Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, offers the United States a window of opportunity to change course on Iran. Congress won’t allow too much divergence, but a lifting of certain embargos and tariffs could be a start.

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