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Great Courses

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History does not repeat itself but it rhymes.

The American president is a uniquely powerful figure on the national stage—indeed, on the world stage. He or she holds sway over an executive branch whose responsibilities range from national defense to agricultural price supports and on to health, education, and tax policy.

But, as the saying goes, power corrupts. It is not unheard of in American history for presidents to wield their significant powers in ways that are contrary to law or that call into question their fitness for office. What happens when presidents or their administrations are thought to have engaged in misconduct or the abuse of their powers?

When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal. – Richard Nixon

The Course explores how law, policy, and history can guide our response to presidential abuse, and considers whether the institutions of American democracy are robust enough to constrain a president who engages in misconduct. These issues, so salient in the past, are once again at the forefront of Americans’ minds.

The course also examines unique advantages that presidents have in responding to investigations of their conduct. They have, for example, an executive privilege which can be used to shield confidential executive communications—at least some of the time. Presidents also have the power of the bully pulpit, which is the ability to command attention and vilify their prosecutors or change the topic to whatever suits them better.

Here are my favourite take aways from viewing Professor Paul Rosenzweig’s Great Courses Class: Investigating American Presidents:

“Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes.” – George Santayana

History does not usually repeat itself but it often rhymes. The 20th century was raveled by two world wars, the great depression, the Spanish flu pandemic, nuclear weapon proliferation, the holocaust, mass genocides, ethnic cleansing & stereotyping, decolonization, the cold war, the fall of the berlin wall, Rwanda Genocide among other significant changes and events.

A century that produced leaders such as Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill, Stalin, Lenin. Mao, FDR, JFK, Woodrow Wilson, Eisenhower, and conflicting ideologies & revolutions such as the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, Imperialism, Feudalism, Fascism, Nazism, Communism, Marxism, Capitalism, Totalitarianism, etc. The century showed man’s capacity for inhumanity towards each other.

Why was the 20th century so violent?

The Great Courses Class: “Utopia and Terror in the 20th Century” examines a fundamental question of our times: Why was the 20th century so violent? This terrible century saw bloodletting on an unprecedented scale. Scholars estimate that around the globe, wars cost more than 40 million lives, while government-sponsored persecutions, mass murder, and genocide accounted for 170 million victims.

Scholars estimate that around the globe, wars cost more than 40 million lives, while government-sponsored persecutions, mass murder, and genocide accounted for 170 million victims.

Political scientist R. J. Rummel of the University of Hawaii calculates that worldwide during the 20th century, wars and civil wars cost about 38 million lives, while government sponsored persecutions, mass murder, and genocide accounted for about 169 million victims.

The course presents a history of financial disasters—crashes, crises, panics, and scandals that have occurred since the early 1600s.

Connel Fullenkamp is a Professor of the Practice of Economics at Duke University, where he also serves as the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Department of Economics and the Director of the Economics Center for Teaching. He teaches core economics courses, such as Economic
Principles, as well as financial economics courses, such as Corporate Finance. Before joining the Duke faculty in 1999, Professor Fullenkamp was a faculty member in the Department of Finance at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.

Professor Jonah Berger is an Associate Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he has taught since 2007. He graduated with distinction from Stanford University with a B.A. in Human Judgment and Decision Making and received his Ph.D from Stanford Graduate School of Business. He has been a visiting faculty member at Duke University and Cornell University.

Professor Berger studies social dynamics—why products, ideas, and behaviors become popular. He examines how individual decision making and social influence among people generate collective outcomes, such as social contagion and trends. His work mixes psychology, sociology, marketing, and economics to understand human behavior and its implications for collective outcomes.

Professor Berger is the author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, which appeared on the best-seller lists of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and translated into almost 30 languages. His other books include Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior and The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind.

Here are my favourite take aways from viewing, Jonah Berger’s Great Courses Class: How Ideas Spread:

Paul Rosenzweig, J.D., is a Professorial Lecturer in Law at The George Washington University Law School, where he lectures on cybersecurity law and policy. He is a cum laude graduate of The University of Chicago Law School. Mr. Rosenzweig has an M.S. in Chemical Oceanography from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (a department of the University of California, San Diego) and a B.A. from Haverford College. Following graduation from law school, he served as a law clerk to the Honorable R. Lanier Anderson III of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

In his non-academic endeavors, Mr. Rosenzweig is the founder of Red Branch Consulting, PLLC, a homeland security consulting company, and a Senior Advisor to The Chertoff Group. He formerly served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and he is currently a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute. Mr. Rosenzweig is a member of the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law and National Security, a Senior Editor of the Journal of National Security Law & Policy, and a Visiting Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

Here are my favorite takeaways from watching, Dr. Paul Rosenzweig’s Great Courses Class: The Surveillance State: Big Data, Freedom, and You.