Michael A. Shields
Electronic Portfolio

My Educational Objectives

I will earn my BA in economics and history in Spring 2013.  I plan to continue to graduate school, combining research in both fields, and eventually earn my Ph.D.

My Career Objectives

My career goal is to teach university courses in economics and history, to conduct research, and to publish writings that contribute to academic and general knowledge in these fields.

How I came to Economics

I began my academic career in the field of history.  History is an intensely political field in any course of study, and this was perhaps no more true than in the area to which I found myself most inextricably drawn: that of Soviet Russia and the Cold War.  Misinformation was rife on both sides of the iron curtain, and today such propaganda still surrounds Western knowledge of Soviet affairs that a study in Sovietology can be both challenging and intriguing.  It was the Cold War, more than any other event, that  earned for the twentieth century the moniker: “The American Century.”  As that century drew to a close, and the Soviet Union dissolved, or was purposely dismantled from within, the communist superstructure gave way to something new.  Americans championed this as a new era of capitalism and freedom, but those who studied Russia closely had misgivings.  State assets were parceled out to the cronies of political leaders in traditional Politburo fashion.  What was called a new private banking industry turned out to be so many schemes set up to funnel Russian currency to overseas banks where it could be seized by a new class of billionaires and safely stowed outside the reach of the Russian government.  Guaranteed wage structures disappeared alongside price subsidies, and it was discovered that nuclear safety workers had walked off the job after months without pay.  This new anarchy seemed in fact to fit some of the parameters of a “free market,” but as it played out on the ground, it was a fiasco.  Was this truly a market system?  If it was, was that better?  If it was not, are there preconditions that must be conscientiously maintained in order for a market to flourish?  In considering these and many related questions, I ultimately reached the end of what the methodologies I knew could teach me.  I turned to the field of economics.   

I began studying economics to shed light on the conflicts and situations I was studying as an historian.  Positive analysis can bring historical abstractions into sharper relief.  I believe that a knowledge of economic principles serves any individual well in understanding the nuances in human interactions.  I came to this second major in search of tools to aid in my understanding of my primary field.  What I found was that, as a logical field that requires constant critical analysis, I enjoy economics immensely in its own right.