Essay about David Ricardo & the Comarative and Absolute Advantage

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David Ricardo was one of those rare people who achieved both tremendous success and lasting fame. After his family disinherited him for marrying outside his Jewish faith, Ricardo made a fortune as a stockbroker and loan broker. When he died, his estate was worth more than $100 million in today’s dollars. At age twenty-seven, after reading Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, Ricardo got excited about economics. He wrote his first economics article at age thirty-seven and then spent the following fourteen years—his last ones—as a professional economist.
Ricardo first gained notice among economists over the “bullion controversy.” In 1809 he wrote that England’s inflation
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Think again. Poorland’s cost of producing wine, although higher than Richland’s in terms of hours of labor, is lower in terms of bread. For every bottle produced, Poorland gives up half of a loaf, while Richland has to give up three loaves to make a bottle of wine. Therefore, Poorland has a comparative advantage in producing wine. Similarly, for every loaf of bread it produces, Poorland gives up two bottles of wine, but Richland gives up only a third of a bottle. Therefore, Richland has a comparative advantage in producing bread.
If they exchange wine and bread one for one, Poorland can specialize in producing wine and trading some of it to Richland, and Richland can specialize in producing bread. Both Richland and Poorland will be better off than if they had not traded. By shifting, say, ten hours of labor out of producing bread, Poorland gives up the one loaf that this labor could have produced. But the reallocated labor produces two bottles of wine, which will trade for two loaves of bread. Result: trade nets Poorland one additional loaf of bread. Nor does Poorland’s gain come at Richland’s expense. Richland gains also, or else it would not trade. By shifting three hours out of producing wine, Richland cuts wine production by one bottle but increases bread production by three loaves. It trades two of these loaves for Poorland’s two bottles of wine. Richland has
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