Rockefeller Center Direct Line - Winter 2014

Our programs at the Rockefeller Center are designed to enable our students to acquire both the knowledge that is relevant to public problems and the capacity to use it in ways that will make progress in solving these problems. Many of these problems will have an international dimension, whether comparative or cooperative.

Comparative public policy problems are ones that each country will seek to solve individually but whose solutions can be informed by the experience of other countries. A good example is health care, where there is an emerging research consensus that the United States is an outlier in the (large) amount it spends and in the (relatively low) return its typical citizen gets on that spending. Some of the ideas being proposed in our domestic health care debates are based on the experience of other countries that have implemented different policies and achieved somewhat better results. Much of the work being done in international development is an attempt to translate ideas that have been successful in one group of countries that have achieved some economic success to other countries that are yet to achieve that level of well-being. Many such efforts fail not because of a lack of knowledge about the problem but because of a lack of ability to translate the solution to a different social environment.

Cooperative public policy problems are ones that require countries to work together to address the underlying issues. A good example is climate change, where individual country efforts to reduce emissions through changes in production and consumption may be of little help or even counterproductive if other countries increase their emissions as a result. Our recent failures to make more progress on climate change policies owe as much to our inability to find ways to work together as they do to our lack of knowledge about the cause and effect of actions that may contribute to climate change.

This term’s newsletter highlights several of our nascent efforts to add international dimensions to our programs that blend leadership and public policy. One is the Global Policy Leadership Practicum, in which a dozen experienced public policy students spent the fall term studying two decades of economic reform in India and then traveled to India during the December break both to test their hypotheses with real world observations and to synthesize their findings into a jointly written report with specific policy recommendations. Another is the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program, in which we have used the same successful formula as our existing programs focused on helping to students to develop their ability to be effective in an international context. I look forward to updating you in the coming years as to our progress with these new programs.

Andrew A. Samwick is the Director of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences, the Sandra L. and Arthur L. Irving '72a, P'10 Professor of Economics at Dartmouth College, and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. In 2003 and 2004, he served as chief economist on the staff of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. 

Since joining the Dartmouth faculty in 1994, his scholarly work has covered a range of topics, including pensions, saving, taxation, portfolio choice, and executive compensation. Professor Samwick has been published in American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy, Journal of Finance, Journal of Public Economics, and a number of specialized journals and conference volumes. He graduated summa cum laude with a degree in economics from Harvard College and received his Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He blogs about economics, politics, and current events.