The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Public Program

Spymasters: Can We Kill Our Way Out?

In today’s political climate, discussions of modern terrorism and the role of elite spying organization have become increasingly controversial. How far should these organizations go in order to protect our nation from terrorist threats? Have these organizations become para-militaristic?

On Wednesday, a distinguished panel of national security experts spoke on these questions. Excerpts from The Spymasters: CIA in the Crosshairs was shown to illustrate some of the examples that panelists will used frame their arguments. The discussion centered around the lengths that America’s spymasters should go to protect our nation from terrorist activity, the development of international spying organizations, and whether said organizations will become a secret army. The nature of modern terrorism was also debated, as well as how our nation should adapt to this new threat.

Was Slavery Essential to American Capitalism?

We all know the booming effect that slavery had on the South’s economy. But is it possible that it was crucial to the development of the nation’s being as a whole? Would American capitalism have achieved its current structure without it? Some have contended that the surplus generated by slavery was key to the development of industrial capitalism. Economists are skeptical of such a link. Regardless, many historians and economists have a renewed interest in the relationship between the central forces of American capitalism, its origins, and how it has been influenced by slavery.

On Thursday, October 20th, this symposium analyzed the origins of American capitalism in tandem with its relationship with slavery. The panelists debated the necessity of slavery to industrial capitalism. From historic and economic standpoints, the impact of slavery on capitalism is hotly contended; essential elements of these linkages were discussed by the interdisciplinary panel.

Rethinking U.S.-Latin American Relations in an Age of Transformations

Does Latin America matter to the United States in today’s world? Considering the amount of talk during the U.S. presidential campaign about immigration and specifically Latin American immigrants living in the U.S., it does.

How have transformative changes over recent decades and especially in the 21st century – within Latin America, in the global context, and in the U.S. itself – changed the nature of U.S.-Latin American relations? How can the U.S. best advance its legitimate interests in the Americas today? What changes in approach, policies and style are required?

Abraham Lowenthal, an internationally recognized authority on Latin America, the Pacific Rim and broader international affairs, addressed these questions during his public talk, “Rethinking U.S.-Latin American Relations in an Age of Transformations.” He discussed U.S. relations with Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, Venezuela, the Andrean countries, the Southern Cone, and the “near abroad” of Central American and the Caribbean, as well as the key issues of contemporary inter-American relations.

A Republic, If You Can Keep It

What government system is currently in place in the United States of America? Ask different groups of citizens, and you may receive very different answers. Some may answer democracy, others constitutional republic, or perhaps representative democracy. However, the Central Intelligence Agency classifies our government as federal presidential republic. This confusion may in part be due to our nation’s unwavering support of the ideals of democracy. What is the true nature of our government? How did our founding fathers come to believe this government was the most appropriate form?

The Multifaceted Nature of Entrepreneurship and Innovative Growth

Analyzing business models, we realize there are many components to profitable success. At the core of these models is innovative business growth. Such entrepreneurial advancements encourage continual growth, living standards, and dynamism. Continual innovation pushes for higher aspirations, inspiring ideas and pushing for an invaluable economic vigor. The growth that comes with entrepreneurial ideals helps our businesses, communities and the American economy. But how does this really happen? How can we make this possible?

On Tuesday, October 4th, Dean of Columbia University Graduate School of Business Glenn Hubbard spoke on the multifaceted nature of entrepreneurship and innovative growth. Focusing on the definition of an entrepreneur, Hubbard relayed the relationship between entrepreneurship and economic growth. The ways that our economy fuels innovation and market growth is also tied into public policy and monetary actions. Hubbard questioned which policies best support this entrepreneurial innovation, even taking the 2016 presidential campaign into account. Dean Hubbard also reflected on the unique role that universities can play in the entrepreneurial process.

The 1968 Election & the Disappearance of Republican Moderates

42%. It’s the percentage of the voting electorate that currently identifies as “independent,” according to a recent Gallup poll, and it’s a number that seems especially just during this polarized political season. One might portend that as this number grudges forward, both Republicans and Democrats would conduct a concerted effort to charm these election-deciding voters. However, the 2016 election and the GOP platform especially represent a complete and total departure from moderation.

Links between Financial Markets and the American Economy

Accredited as the world’s most powerful bank, the Federal Reserve’s concentration of power is positively linked to global financial markets and our own economic success or failure. An efficient financial system plays a significant role in GDP growth and American prosperity, while adverse financial setbacks can have catastrophic effects on economic activity and employment. Recent controversy has erupted over the Fed’s lack of transparency; during the primaries, both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton endorsed proposals to reform the structure of the Fed. Additionally, federal reform is now included in the Democratic platform. How will these prospective changes affect our Federal Reserve, the American economy, and global financial markets?

2016 Constitution Day: Elizabeth Wydra

It is no secret that the 2016 presidential election cycle has been littered with tension, controversy, and surprises — not the least of which was the sudden passing of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. With this, a seat that once belonged to arguably the most conservative Supreme Court Justice in recent memory has opened up, heating up an already heated election cycle. With two current Justices in their 80’s, and a third trailing close behind, the president who wins the 2016 election may have an unparalleled opportunity to remake the Supreme Court in their image. Considering the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review, such an event would most certainly reverberate throughout the country, under not only the next president but also under the many presidents to come.

Public Program: “Will Obama’s America Vote for Trump?"

President Obama rode sweeping demographic changes to clear victories in the last two presidential elections. Yet Donald Trump, who seems to go out of his way to alienate Mr. Obama's diverse coalition, is competitive in the general election. How can a candidate like Mr. Trump compete in the same country that elected Mr. Obama just four years ago? And will he win?

Nate Cohn, political correspondent for "The Upshot," a policy and politics site at The New York Times, will give the keynote address of the 2016 Dartmouth Experiments Conference titled, "Will Obama's America Vote for Trump?"

The Experiments Conference is sponsored by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy, the Department of Government, the Program in Quantitative Social Science, and the Politics and Law Program.

Racial Disparities in the American Prison Population

The U.S. Bureau of Justice estimates that on any given day, more than 2 million people are incarcerated in the United States. Mass incarceration affects many facets of American society, but its consequences are concentrated on racial and ethnic minority communities. Several reforms have been proposed to help reduce the scope of incarceration and the disparities in its application, but the question remains, are these politically feasible and, if so, how impactful will they really be?


The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences