Sunday, March 31, 2013

Book: The Choice: A Fable of Free Trade and Protectionism by Russell Roberts

If only there were more books like this and more well meaning folk like Russell Roberts. Russ is an economist with a strong free-market bent and The Choice is a salient reminder of the benefits of free trade and free markets. In this tale the ghost of David Ricardo (a smart looking economist who came up with the revolutionary concept of comparative advantage) returns to earth to knock a bit of common sense into Ed Johnson, the president of a television manufacturer who is about to head off to support a protectionist politician. Even though the book can get a bit heavy at times, it achieves it's objective admirably and is a must read for anybody interested or confused about the benefits of free trade. It should also be compulsory reading for all politicians.


"Where's the television factory?"
"You're looking at it"
"But the sign says 'Merck and Co, Inc, A Pharmaceutical Company. Doesn't that mean they make drugs?"
"Indeed they do, Ed. They send some of those drugs to Japan. In return, Japan sends televisions. There are two ways to make television - the direct way, and the roundabout way"

"As a businessman, you transformed the world. OK, you didn't cure cancer or invent the automobile. But you were part of a revolution that started with the printing press, went through the radio and then the television, and culminated in the computer and the Internet. That revolution closed a lot of factories along the way, just as trade did. When you opened factories in Illinois, other factories closed as you attracted workers and capital. When people dream of making a new product or making an old product better, they transform people's lives and they change the economic landscape."

"...members of Congress have other excuses to salvage their public image. They will tell you that free trade works fine 'in theory'. Or that free trade only works when the rest of the world follows free trade. These are rhetorical arguments to cover the smell of narrow self-interest."

David Ricardo

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