Overcoming Absolute and Comparative Advantage: A Reappraisal of the Relative Cheapness of Foreign Commodities As the Basis of International Trade

20 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2018 Last revised: 16 Sep 2020

Date Written: May 2, 2019

Abstract

David Ricardo indicated in his famous numerical example in the Principles that it would be advantageous to Portugal to import English cloth made by 100 men, although it could have been produced locally with the labor of only 90 Portuguese men. As the production of the cloth required less quantity of labour in Portugal, it has been commonly inferred that this country had a production cost advantage over England in cloth making. This inference will be proven wrong here by showing that the English cloth had a lower cost of production than the Portuguese cloth. This finding refutes the widespread belief that Ricardo had formulated a new law, principle or rule for international specialization, known as comparative advantage. He used the same rule for specialization as Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations. Thus, the popular contraposition of Smith’s absolute versus Ricardo’s comparative cost advantage has to be dismissed.

Keywords: comparative advantage, absolute cost advantage, David Ricardo, Adam Smith, classical rule for specialisation, international trade theory

JEL Classification: B12, B17, F10

Suggested Citation

Morales Meoqui, Jorge, Overcoming Absolute and Comparative Advantage: A Reappraisal of the Relative Cheapness of Foreign Commodities As the Basis of International Trade (May 2, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3095473 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3095473

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