EXCLUSIVE: Economics prof. teaches students 'Why and How Capitalism Needs to be Reformed'

College of the Holy Cross is now advertising its Economics of Inequality course, taught by Professor Kolleen Rask, which features required assignments in which students are to read texts such as Why and How Capitalism Needs to be Reformed by Ray Dalio.

Rask created the course and taught it for the first time during the fall semester of 2019. To set the stage for the class, the front page of the syllabus cites former First Lady Michelle Obama's recent book, Becoming

Immediately after that, students are called upon to “parse” the following sentence: “Or in the words of comedian Jeremy McClellan: 'Men naturally gravitate toward higher-paying jobs, like doctors, lawyers and other professionals. Women naturally gravitate toward lower-paying jobs, like female doctors, female lawyers, and other female professionals.”

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The remainder of the syllabus outlines the lesson plans for each day of the semester. Beyond reading Why and How Capitalism Needs to be Reformed, some of the many texts assigned to students to read also include The Rise and Consequences of Inequality in the United States by Alan B. Krueger. 

In The Rise and Consequences of Inequality in the United States, the author praises the Affordable Care Act and states in the first paragraph, “Neera and I worked closely together for many long hours on the historic health care reform bill that President Obama signed into law in March 2010.” The author also later concludes “there is little empirical support for the claim that reducing the progressivity of the tax code has spurred income growth, business formation or job growth.”

Although many shorter articles are assigned for reading, the full-length books students are required to have for the course are Inequality in the 21st Century by David Grusky and Jasmine Hill, and Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty. 

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 Harvard University Press lists many reviews and comments on Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

Cory Doctorow with Boing Boing states, “Piketty wants desperately to salvage capitalism, even if that means proposing something that every capitalist will hate: a global wealth tax.”

“Armed with centuries of data, Piketty says the rich are going to continue to gobble up a greater share of income, and our current system will do nothing to reverse that trend," writes Shaila Dewan with The New York Times Magazine.

Race, gender, and segregation are all themes of the class as well. 

According to the Holy Cross Magazine article written by Jane Carlton, there were 48 students in both sections of the class during the fall semester, and in that same article, Rask emphasizes how much opportunity students have for discussion as they make connections between social issues and policy ideas.