OLLIE and AIER to bring political and economic clarity into our contentious times

In politics, the truth behind America’s economic landscape is hidden by a thicket of misinformation, sound bites that pander to simple explanations and endless (it seems) political myths. How do you get your head around all the competing theories in a landscape where the truth is overshadowed by the shouting?

There are not many opportunities to hear about economics in an entertaining and informative way, but here’s a good start. These “talking heads” actually know what they are talking about. You are invited to learn more than many of the so called experts who mislead you every day on television.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Berkshire Community College (OLLI) is partnering with the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) to offer an exciting new program: an OLLI University Day to be held Wednesday, August 17, 2016 at AIER’s headquarters in Great Barrington.

OLLI University Day provides a day of thought-provoking lectures and discussions with noted experts in local, national and international issues. Featured speakers include Adam Segal, Ph.D., Senior Fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations; Polina Vlasenko, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow at AIER, and State Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli, the dean of Berkshire County’s state legislative delegation.

“OLLI’s University Day is designed to offer OLLI members and non-members alike a taste of the stimulating lectures and discussions that distinguish OLLI’s classes and talks,” explained OLLI Board President Leonard Tabs. “We’re very happy to be partnering with AIER on this new initiative.”

AIER President Stephen J. Adams noted, “AIER is delighted to partner with OLLI on the University Day project. AIER’s objective has always been to provide independent economic analysis and insights that enable all Americans to understand the issues that impact their lives.”

The day begins at 10am with coffee and refreshments, followed by a morning lecture by Ms. Vlasenko, who will be speaking on the topic of “Employment and Growth: The Emergence of a New Normal.” A luncheon follows with Representative Pignatelli speaking on local and state issues facing Massachusetts and the Berkshires. After lunch, an optional walking tour of the AIER grounds will be given, followed by an afternoon talk and discussion by Mr. Segal on “States, Spies and War in the Digital Age.” The day ends at 3:30pm.

OLLI University Day is open to the public. But knowledge has its price. Tickets are $35 for OLLI and AIER members, and includes lunch, and are $50 for the general public. They can be purchased online at http://berkshireolli.org or by calling 413-236-2190.


Adam Segal is the director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), as well as the Ira A. Lipman chair in emerging technologies and national security. An expert on security issues, technology development, and Chinese domestic and foreign policy, his new book The Hacked World Order: How Nations Fight, Trade, Maneuver, and Manipulate in the Digital Age (PublicAffairs, 2016) describes the increasingly contentious geopolitics of cyberspace. His work has appeared in the Financial Times, The Economist, Foreign Policy, The Wall Street Journal, and Foreign Affairs, among others.

He has been a visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for International Studies, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, and Tsinghua University in Beijing. Segal is also the author of Advantage: How American Innovation Can Overcome the Asian Challenge (W.W. Norton, 2011) and Digital Dragon: High-Technology Enterprises in China (Cornell University Press, 2003), as well as several articles and book chapters on Chinese technology policy.

Segal has a BA and PhD in government from Cornell University, and an MA in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.

Mr. Segal will be speaking on “States, Spies and War in the Digital Age.” In the Information Age, modern society has gone digital. Computer technology has revolutionized nearly every aspect of our world, including international warfare. Where geopolitical power once depended solely on military might and regional diplomacy, cyberwarfare provides new tools for political influence and conflict.

As cyberspace expands across borders, new state and non-state actors engage in acts of virtual aggression and use social media to control mainstream narratives. What does this new source of power mean for international foreign relations and how can the US negotiate its superpower status to gain control over this virtual battleground? Are US defenses prepared for global cyber terrorism threats? How can civilian populations be protected from cyber threats, given our reliance on the Internet and computer technology? How will Internet governance and surveillance affect user privacy?


Polina Vlasenko, who will be speaking on “Employment and Growth: The Emergence of a New Normal,” joined AIER as a research fellow in 2008 after working as a visiting research fellow. Her primary research area is macroeconomics, including forecasting economic performance and analyzing the effects of government policies on the economy. She holds a PhD in economics from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Okun’s Law, the relationship between growth in output and change in employment, traditionally showed that for every 1 percentage point increase in GDP growth the unemployment rate falls 0.5 percent. The logic behind it is straightforward – to produce more output, the economy needs to employ more people. The relationship held when it was first proposed in the 1960s. But the jobless recoveries following the past three recessions call the relationship into question. With changes in technology and in the structure of the economy, we may no longer need to employ as many more people to produce more output. If so, it would mean that policies aimed at economic growth may not automatically deliver jobs growth, the way they did in the past.


AIER is a private, non-for-profit think-tank in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. Its mission is to provide independent, research-based economic analysis and insights to the public. AIER’s extensive education programming includes a Teach-the-Teacher Initiative, the Summer Fellowship practicum program, and the C. Lowell Harriss Fund, which annually award entrepreneurship scholarships to Community College students. For more information visit http://www.aier.org


OLLI provides educational, social and volunteer opportunities designed especially by and for people fifty years old and better in the greater Berkshires. OLLI has over 1,000 members from Vermont to Connecticut and offers over 80 programs a year, including four semesters a year of thought-provoking classes, a Distinguished Speaker Series, and special events and trips. For more information visit BerkshireOLLI.org, or call 413-236-2190 or email olli@berkshirecc.edu to request a catalog and join their mailing list.

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