A few days ago the Tuck community had the privilege of hearing from two respected economists about the Euro crisis. Senior Associate Dean Bob Hansen and Associate Dean Matt Slaughter (both Americans) provided some great insights on the topic, approaching it from different, but complementary, directions.
Both men focused on the challenges of implementing a common currency among nations that take very different approaches to managing their economies. Indeed, Dean Slaughter reminded us that government defaults should not be viewed as inevitable beyond a certain level of debt but instead as “strategic decisions” on the part of governments. He drove this point home by pointing out that Japan’s current ratio of gross government debt to GDP is well of above Greece’s, and well above Argentina’s when it defaulted on its debt.
For me, however, some of the real “aha” moments of the session came when four European Tuckies made brief remarks on the issue. The first student who spoke, who was from France, stressed that in the minds of many Europeans, the Euro Zone is not just about economics – it’s about peace. I was struck by the fact that this theme had been completely absent from the discussion up until that point. It took the participation of this student, who had been raised in Europe, a continent ravaged by war during the 20th century, to remind us of this key driver behind efforts to unify Europe.
Building on this theme, several of the European students who spoke brought up the idea of creating a “united federation of Europe” to ensure common economic policies to go along with the common currency. This prompted me to ask some other European Tuckies what they thought about this idea, and and I was able to learn even more about the concept. Again, I don’t think that this idea would have been brought into the discussion without the participation of the European students.
All of this reminded me of the incredible value of our diverse student body at Tuck, and of the efforts we make to ensure that their voices are heard. It takes deliberate planning, recognition of the importance of lived experience in the educational environment, and, in the case of the Euro session, courage on the part of students tasked speaking after renowned scholars. However, I believe it does in the end deliver a more holistic learning experience, and is thus well worth the effort involved! Tuckies can look forward to similar multi-faceted learning experiences in the future, and in the interim, should take advantage of all of the informal opportunities that they can to learn from our diverse community.