IPE and Statecraft

We have been surveying the subfield of international political economy (IPE) for the last two weeks in my international relations course.  Statecraft is designed to illustrate a number of key IPE concepts, so I was able to draw on students’ simulation experiences during lecture and discussion to make some of these concepts “hit home” for students.  See the lecture outlines (provided to any instructor who has adopted, or is interested in adopting, Statecraft) for a full explication of these Statecraft-IPE links, in the areas of trade, interdependence, globalization, and perspectives on IPE (mercantilism, liberalism, and Marxism).  But here’s a sampling of the ways I’ve drawn on Statecraft over the past two weeks to help inform class lecture and discussion:

(1) Links between Politics and Economics: to drive home the point that IPE is an indispensable subfield of IR because of the interconnectedness of politics and economics, I asked students to identify ways in which political factors shaped economic outcomes, and vice versa.  I asked for both real-world and Statecraft examples.  Statecraft examples included economic wealth as a basis for military power, UN/coalition decisions imposing trade sanctions against “rogue states,” domestic factions’ demands (e.g., the capitalists vs. environmentalists) affecting economic development, and the politics of foreign economic aid.

(2) Autarky, Comparative Advantage, and Trade:  There are five resources in Statecraft: gold, food, steel, scientific knowledge, and oil.  Each country will be rich in some resources and poor in others (although all countries produce the same amount of total resources per turn when the simulation begins).  Students can pursue a variety of strategies to acquire the resources they need to build their domestic quality of life and construct military units.  Some strive for autarky, or self-sufficiency, by building a full range of resource-enhancement structures such as gold mines, factories, steel mills, farms, oil refineries, and research labs.  (These structures increase their production of specific resources by a certain percentage: for example, each gold mine increases gold production by 5% of original production).  But perceptive students realize that this is an inefficient way to acquire resources.  A better strategy is for countries to focus on producing the resources they can produce most efficiently and trade for the rest.  For example, a country that is endowed with ample gold and naturally produces 1,000 gold per turn can gain 50 extra gold by purchasing one gold mine (+5% gold).  But a country that only produces 100 gold per turn receives a mere 5 extra gold from each gold mine purchased.  Since gold mines cost the same for each country to build, it makes sense for gold-rich countries to focus on their comparative advantage by “maxing out” on gold mines and other gold-producing structures, and trading their surplus gold to countries that are naturally rich in food, steel, etc. 

(3) Zero-Sum vs. Positive-Sum Perspectives on Economics: In lecture I noted that the mercantilist perspective is based on a zero-sum view of the global economy, whereas the liberal/capitalist view assumes a positive-sum universe.  To illustrate these concepts, I asked students to identify which of the Statecraft awards (extra credit in my class) are zero-sum, which are positive-sum, and why.  The global awards are all positive sum, or win-win, in nature–if the world achieves Global Peace, Saving the Environment, Wiping out Terrorism, or Solving World Hunger, all countries receive 5 points for each goal.  The competitive goals such as Healthiest Country, Most Scientifically Advanced Country, and Most Militarily Powerful Country, are zero-sum goals in that only one country can win each prize, and when a country does so, this reduces the pool of extra credit by 5 points for the other countries.

The above examples just scratch the surface of the Statecraft-IPE links that instructors may wish to highlight in their classes.  You are under no obligation to mention every single link to your students; some of these are best discovered through their own “ah-ha” moments (which they’ll frequently tell you about), and others you simply won’t have time to explore in any depth.  As with the security, foreign policy, IO, and other elements of Statecraft, there’s much more going on each week than you will be able to sort through in class discussion.  Pick and choose the examples and concepts that you want to focus on, and those that aren’t relevant to your class (or to your plan for a given day) can be ignored.

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