Economic Insights with David McWilliams

As you may know I am running a new economics course, which kicks off on October 22nd. In the past few days, people have often asked: “what will I get out of this Economic Insights course”. I’ve put an outline of the course below, but rather than me telling you what I think you will get out of it, why not read the testimonials of students who have done the course over the past few years? Here are a few past students on their experiences:

“The economics without boundaries course was relevant, current, objective and interactive.  The guest speakers were excellent and it was very beneficial to hear the experiences of others and what we could learn from them.  The most gripping course I have ever attended.  It was a pity it had to end at some point”
Raymond M. Kane FCA

“A brilliant course for anyone who wants to really understand what is happening in the Irish and global economies, and the impact it will have on you, your job and your income! David has a fantastic way of explaining things to its simplest form, no nonsense economics, ask all the questions you wanted to know but none of your friends were able to answer. David is thought provoking and this course will certainly make you think!  If you were thinking of giving someone a gift this Christmas/ Birthday, give it to them early  this year and give them something they want!”
Kathleen Bohan

“David’s course was truly excellent. It opened my mind and brought my understanding of economics to the next level. What I most liked about the course was that the economic arguments were presented from all economic disciplines whether they are Austrian, Keynesian etc and the student was allowed to form their own opinion based on the facts. I would strongly recommend it to anyone with an interest in economics.”
Mark Kelly

The Course

It’s never been more important to have a sound grasp of economics. This is a jargon-free course for anyone who wants to have the inside track on the world we live in today.

What:     30 hours; 1/2 evenings per week. Each class is 2.5 hours; this is complemented by a 1 hour weekly online tutorial.

When:    October 22 – December 13, 2012

Where:   Economics Institute, 78/79 Upper George’s Street, Dun Laoghaire

How:      Enroll  online by clicking on the ‘Buy Now’ button below.

Price:    €1000

Enroll Now – Update: Booking has been suspended as the course is now in session

Join me to find out what really happened in the Irish, European and global economies. This 8 lesson course will teach you the fundamentals of economic thought and take an in-depth look into the world we live in today – busts, booms and all points between. It’s a one-off opportunity to get jargon free advice and an inside track on the way economics works in Ireland and around the globe.

Places are strictly limited, so enroll now to avoid disappointment. Click on the ‘Buy Now’ button to purchase your place on the course.  

Course Outline

For details of each class, read on:





Lesson 1Whether you want to make better investment decisions, save money, or just want to know how everything works, this opening session is designed to give you the overview.I will present a brief introduction to economic theory.Economists tend to fall into different camps such Keynesian, monetarist, neo-classical or Austrian for example. For some economists, these allegiances are crucial, while for the rest of the world it probably seems a bit more like grownups talking about their loyalties to football teams.But these theoretical underpinnings are important. They help to explain why the global financial crisis occurred, how so much of the profession missed it and why economists are divided over how to get out of it. This session will also lay the foundations for the rest of the course by explaining why people acted the way they did during the Great Recession.
The Good Room by David McWilliamsNew Ideas from Dead Economists by Todd G. Buchholz.The Worldly Philosophers by Robert Heilbroner.Debunking Economics by Steve Keen.


Lesson 2In order to be effective economists, we must have “grasp”. Grasp is not the same as detail; it allows you to see how everything hangs together. A good place to start is to appreciate history and how so many things go in cycles.  This is particularly relevant when it comes to booms and busts.  There is a wealth of material in this topic for Irish students at the moment.  We will discuss past booms and busts throughout the world, which will tell us how the crisis occurred; and how we can get out of our own mess.We will learn more about the stages of a credit boom, and explain how times of plenty can become ages of austerity. We’ll also learn about the types of borrowers in the market, and the effect each has on the length and severity of a downturn.We’ll examine the Great Irish crash and why it happened and what is likely to happen to house prices from here.The story of the crisis, just like the boom before it, is one of sensible people making respectable decisions. So far, toeing the conventional line hasn’t worked out incredibly well for Ireland. But what are the alternatives? We explore ways Ireland could come back to growth, examining the roadblocks, like the fiscal compact, on the way.We will discuss ‘balance sheet recessions’,slumps that persists, despite low interest rates, because companies and individuals are trying to repair their balance sheets by paying off debt. This will lead us to a discussion on deleveraging and its consequences. (Chapter 3 & 13) The Good Room by David McWilliamsReturn of Depression Economics by Paul KrugmanThe Wealth and Poverty of Nations by David LandesThe Ascent of Money by Niall FergusonThe Lords of Finance by Liaquat AhamedFooled by Randomness by Nassim TalebThe Black Swan by Nassim TalebThis Time Is Different by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth RogoffThe Pope’s Childrenby David McWilliamsThe Generation Gameby David McWilliams


Lesson 3This evening’s lecture will not necessarily be about economics on the face of it, rather, for students to see how interlinked things are.  For example, why do Spanish debt crises result in gold price rises?  This is known as Contagion.The more interlinked things become, the more the risk of contagion. Financial markets and general global liquidity are good examples of this.  For example, why did a crisis in Thailand cause trigger selling of Russian assets, which in turn caused LTCM – the hedge fund – to go bust in 1998?Different countries have taken wildly differing approaches to the events. This is mainly driven by their reaction to contagion. We will look at the choices made in Ireland, Iceland, Asia and Latin America, examine how global bodies like the IMF deal with downturns, and discover how default might not be the end of everything, but the beginning. (Chapter 5) The Good Room by David McWilliamsLord of Finance: Liaquat AhamedThe Affluent Societyby JK GalbraithFinancial Contagion: The Viral Threat to the Wealth of Nations by Robert W. KolbMania, Panics and Crashes by Charles KindlebergerThe Holy Grail of Macroeconomics: Lessons from Japans Great Recession by Richard Koo


Lesson 4Central banks are major actors in all our financial lives, but how much do we really know about how they work — what they can and can’t do? Right now in Europe, Mario Draghi is redefining what a central bank can do, so lets see what he is doing and what it means for us.Tonight we will explore the role of central banks and the ways currencies operate.We will delve into the history of currency crises and ask why they happened — and what lessons we can take from them — from World War 1 to today’s Eurozone meltdown.We will explore how money works and define the relevant terms such as fiat, gold standard, monetary policy etc.  We will also examine how banking controls the money supply (and is important for it); why a banking system is important, but individual banks are not.We will also discuss the money illusion together.  This is a critical point to get across, as it is the one that more easily facilitates exchange rate depreciation rather than cutbacks.  (Chapters 7 & 9) The Good Room by David McWilliamsAscent of Money by Niall Ferguson.Why Money?Armen A. Alchian (Journal Article)Money Mischief: Episodes in Monetary History by Milton Friedman





Lesson 5We often hear about the bond market, but how much do we actually know about how it works? More importantly, why is the bond market so central to Ireland?We look at how Ireland dealt with the crisis — were decisions made based on reality – or reputation?We also examine the ECB’s role — did they bully us into austerity — and if so, why?Also we examine the thought process at work in the Irish policy making elite and why this approach has been proved to be dreadfully inaccurate in other countries. (Chapters 7, 11, & 17) The Good Roomby David McWilliamsFools Gold by Gillian TettThe Great Crash by JK GalbraithPredictably Irrational by Dan Ariely


Lesson 6

Ten years into a shared currency, and decades after Europe began the process of unification, national differences seem starker than ever, nowhere more so than in economics.We look into how Europe came to this point, why we didn’t all become German, and what the future could hold.The EU, the Euro and the bailouts are also important in this context. Who’s next?Why is Europe attached to expanding a currency that only makes economic sense for a few members?At this stage, all any of us want to know is when things will start getting better.To help us find that out, we look in depth at Greece, Spain, Italy and Ireland and our problems, how rational Europe has really been and whether it’s really true that the EU has misdiagnosed the entire crisis.This class concludes with an investigation into the possible scenarios for Ireland and the Euro — should we stay or will we go? 
(Chapter 7, 15 & 19) The Good Room by David McWilliamsFlaws in the Design of the Eurosystem? by Paul De Grauwe  (Article)A Market Perspective on the European Sovereign Debt and Banking Crisis by Adrian Blundell-Wignall and Patrick Slovik (Article)Economics of Monetary Union by Paul De Grauwe





Lesson 7
Another important future topic is the resource war.  Here the most important trend is the clash of demographics over the finite resources of the planet.  This will lead to possible resource nationalism in countries that have resources (Chavez in Venezuela being a good example) and huge innovation and investment in the “Green Economy” in countries that do not have resources.This creates its own opportunities as well as threats.How has society utilized its resources since the industrial revolution and how do we manage those scarce resources? We look at how nations are managing their natural resources in order to develop a sustainable economy for future generations
An Essay on the Principle of Populationby Thomas MalthusIs There Really a Green Paradox? by Van der Ploeg and Withagen (Article)Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared DiamondThe World Without Us by Alan Weisman


Lesson 8After discussing building a sustainable economy for future generations we’ll conclude the course with Ireland’s outlook. What is going to happen to us next year and in the year’s ahead?Where are the ticking time bombs; and where are the opportunities under our noses?In this class we’ll also examine Ireland’s Generation Skype. Who are they? We look at the demographics, those who go, those who are left behind, and what the long and short-term consequences are likely to be.We also look to the future, armed with what we now know about how the economy works, how economies can turnaround dramatically and explain how Ireland can grow from here once again. (Chapter 1)The Good Roomby David McWilliamsThe Economics of Immigration: Theory and Policy by Örn B. Bodvarsson, Hendrik Van den Berg

Enroll Now

Places are limited. To enroll click on the Paypal link below to purchase your place on the course.

Reading List:

The course outline above lists the books used in each lesson, but I’ve also put together some general recommendations. Depending on whether you’re a pure swot, can only do the bare minimum, or like most of us are an educated spoofer, there’s a list for you.

 Bare Minimum

The Good Room by David McWilliams

The Worldly Philosophers by Robert Heilbroner

Debunking Economics by Steve Keen

This Time Is Different by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff

The Pope’s Children by David McWilliams

The Generation Game by David McWilliams

The Great Crash by JK Galbraith

Flaws in the Design of the Eurosystem? by Paul De Grauwe

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

Fools Gold by Gillian Tett

Educated Spoofers

New Ideas from Dead Economists by Todd G. Buchholz

Return of Depression Economics by Paul Krugman

The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson

This Time Is Different by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive: (also sometimes titled: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed) by Jared Diamond.

The Wealth and Poverty of Nations by David Landes

The Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed

Mania, Panics And Crashes by Charles Kindleberger

The Holy Grail of Macroeconomics: Lessons from Japans Great Recession by Richard Koo

Pure Swots

Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Taleb

The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb

Why Money?  Armen A. Alchian

A Market Perspective on the European Sovereign Debt and Banking Crisis by Adrian Blundell-Wignall and Patrick Slovik

Economics of Monetary Union by Paul De Grauwe

An Essay on the Principle of Population by Thomas Malthus.

Is There Really a Green Paradox?  by Van der Ploeg and Withagen. (Article)

The Economics of Immigration: Theory and Policy by Örn B. Bodvarsson, Hendrik Van den Berg

The Affluent Society by JK Galbraith



Here’s some more:

“The Economics without Boundaries course was a very refreshing way to expand economic insight.   The course was delivered by adding economic theory to current context and context to economic theory.   It was a mix of theory, insight, diverse opinion and engaging debate.”
Marian Curry

“The economics course delivered by David was both entertaining and educational.  David has an uncanny ability to explain economics in a refreshing and interesting style.”
Michael Collins

Hi David, It was a great learning experience for me to attend your course Economics without Boundaries. The letures were really enjoyable as well as being very informative. I have no hesitation in recommending the course to anyboby with a huge or not so huge interest in economics.
As one of the more senior [ in age] students I never thought that I could get a grip on economics but by the end of the course I felt I
was able to understand it so much better. You are a great lecturer making lectures easy and so much fun, especially for my ilk who have not been in college. Thank you so much for a wonderful experience.
Mary Wallace