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International Economics

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Abstract

This chapter is divided in two sections, both dealing with different aspects of international trade from an Austrian perspective. In Sect. 5.1, we analyze Ricardo’s Law of Comparative Advantage (also known as “Law of Association”) in order to critically respond to the analysis offered by Taleb (Antifragile: things that gain from disorder. Random House, New York, 2012). The latter points to the invalidity of the model, since it does not assume price variability, thus exposing it to grave systemic consequences due to abrupt changes in relative prices. Our critique is based on the approach taken by Ludwig Von Mises (Human action – a treatise on economics. The Scholar’s edition. Ludwig Von Mises Institute, Auburn, 1949) on the same subject. The Ricardian model is viewed from a praxeological perspective. We maintain that Taleb’s critique, although correct in invalidating Ricardo’s analysis, not only does not harm but even reaffirms Ricardo’s original conclusion pointing to the advantages of cooperation in general, and international free trade in particular.

In Sect. 5.2, we offer a critique of the theory of the deterioration in the terms of trade, developed by Raúl Prebisch and Hans Singer. As an example of the theory’s shortcomings, the case of Argentina’s import substitution model is analyzed. Thus, we demonstrate how a misunderstanding of the influence of price variability in international trade may lead to the mistaken conclusion that protectionist measures must be adopted and enforced in order to achieve growth and prosperity.

Keywords

  • Taleb
  • Mises
  • International trade
  • Comparative advantage
  • Ricardo
  • International trade
  • Terms of trade
  • Argentina
  • Prebisch
  • Singer

JEL Code

  • F19

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Notes

  1. 1.

    An accurate exposition can be seen in Krugman et al. (2012). Indeed, virtually every economic textbook properly explains this brilliant insight of Ricardo’s.

  2. 2.

    We assume these two products are additive.

  3. 3.

    It is true that, in our example, wheat production ends up being lower. But what we are trying to show is that global production increases. That is the main point of the theory, and multiple examples could be shown where no product’s quantity ends up being lower than it was before producing (and trading) on the basis of comparative advantages.

  4. 4.

    Presents leptokurtosis, above normal.

  5. 5.

    Or, at least, it is incomplete.

  6. 6.

    The science of human action, based on the action axiom and its logical implications. For a full description of this science, see Mises (1949), and our Chap. 1, supra. However, this is not the only a priori methodology that could state such a law. For instance, see Stigler (1966), and even, to some extent, Krugman (1998).

  7. 7.

    We must state that the place of the law of comparative advantage within praxeology, the validity of the law of comparative advantage as a praxeological theorem, and the relation between a praxeological law with the advocacy of free trade are different subjects. Nevertheless, Mises (1949) treats them together to defend a free market economy. Since we are following Mises’ approach here, we also conform to his treatment of these subjects.

  8. 8.

    See Chap. 1 supra for a discussion of alternative interpretations.

  9. 9.

    Since prices are a given in the real world, it can be thought that all the planner needs to do is to identify comparative advantages and promote the production of the relevant goods. This is mistaken.

  10. 10.

    With respect to the case of Ireland in the XIXth century, see Thornton (2000, 2008). About the source of economic crises, see Hayek (1931), Mises (1912 [1953]), and Rothbard (1963 [2000], 1963 [2008], 1983 [2008]).

  11. 11.

    See Toye and Toye (2003), Etchebarne (2008), Ocampo and Parra (2003), and Ocampo (2015, 352–3). See also the next section for a full treatment of this theory.

  12. 12.

    For an economic history of Argentina in the twentieth century, see Cortés Conde (2009).

  13. 13.

    Moreover, some customers may prefer locally produced products, rather than imported, despite comparative advantages. In any case, this would be the comparative advantage of the product in the eyes of local customers, i.e. that they are locally produced.

  14. 14.

    This is necessarily true in the ex ante sense, and almost always so ex post as well.

  15. 15.

    Such as Raúl Prebisch and Hans Singer’s theory of the “deterioration in the terms of trade” (Ocampo 2015).

  16. 16.

    See Hayek (1931), Mises (1912 [1953]), Rothbard (1963 [2000]; 1963 [2008]; 1983 [2008]).

  17. 17.

    See Hoffmann and Schnabl (2011); Ballardini et al. (2011); Tejera et al. (2012).

  18. 18.

    Translation from the original in Spanish by Emilio Ocampo. Republished with permission by the author.

  19. 19.

    For instance, both Argentina and Australia export commodities, but the latter is a developed country while the former is not. Iowa sends corn abroad as does Kansas, wheat. Neither is exactly impoverished.

  20. 20.

    For a detailed analysis see Ocampo and Parra (2003), and Toye and Toye (2003).

  21. 21.

    We abstract, here, from transfer payments. To ascertain which geographical areas are net beneficiaries of these transfers would take us too far from the subject of this work.

  22. 22.

    This assumes that cycles are the result of fiscal and monetary policies in the core, whereas there are a number of cycle theories that do not maintain that, e.g., ABCT (monetary/credit, but not fiscal policy; yet, see Chap. 4), Keynes – real factors (“animal spirits” of businessmen re profit expectations and investment), and Schumpeter (innovation regarding production).

  23. 23.

    Translated from the original in Spanish by the first mentioned author.

  24. 24.

    See Ballardini et al. (2012).

  25. 25.

    Translated from the original in Spanish by the first mentioned author.

  26. 26.

    Translated from the original in Spanish by the first mentioned author.

  27. 27.

    Translated from the original in Spanish by the first mentioned author.

  28. 28.

    Translated from the original in Spanish by the first mentioned author.

  29. 29.

    Translated from the original in Spanish by the first mentioned author.

  30. 30.

    Translated from the original in Spanish by the first mentioned author.

  31. 31.

    Translated from the original in Spanish by the first mentioned author.

  32. 32.

    If we take a price of around USD 1800.00 for an ounce of Gold, at the time of this writing.

  33. 33.

    We owe this point to William Barnett II.

  34. 34.

    On the Austrian business cycle theory, see Barnett and Block (2012), Garrison (2001), Hayek (1931), Mises (1912, 1949), Rothbard (1962 [2009]; 1963 [2000]), Woods (2009); see also Chap. 4.

  35. 35.

    On this transmission phenomenon, see Block et al. (2018).

  36. 36.

    See Calvo (1998), Edwards (2004), Reinhart and Calvo (2000).

  37. 37.

    For more on this see Bagus (2003), Bagus et al. (2013), Barnett and Block (2005; 2008, 2009), Baxendale (2010), Barnett II and Block (2008), Block and Caplan (2008), Block and Garschina (1996), Block and Posner (2008), Davidson (2008), Davidson and Block (2011), Hanke (2008), Hazlitt (1979), Hollenback (2013, 2014), Hoppe (1994), Hoppe et al. (1998), Howden (2013), Huerta de Soto (1995, 1998, 2006, 2010, 2018), Hülsmann (1996, 2000, 2002; 2003; 2008), Murphy (2010), Polleit (2010), Reisman (1996, 2009), Rothbard (1962 [1991]; 1963 [2008]; 1962 [2009]); 1962 [1991], and Salerno (2010a, b, 2011).

  38. 38.

    At least ex ante, and, almost always, ex post as well.

  39. 39.

    Of course, entrepreneurs typically initiate matters, but that is an entirely different issue. On entrepreneurship, see Kirzner (1973).

  40. 40.

    According to an aphorism, when the U.S. sneezes, Canada catches a cold. But it is the same with relatively large Massachusetts, and small Rhode Island.

  41. 41.

    For an economic history of Argentina see Rapoport (2005 [2013]).

  42. 42.

    Translated from the original in Spanish by the first mentioned author of the present article.

  43. 43.

    See the previous section on Ricardo and Taleb, in this chapter.

  44. 44.

    See Hayek (1931, 1933 [1966]), Mises (1912 [1953]), Rothbard (1962 [2009]; 1963 [2000]; 1963 [2008]; 1983 [2008]); see also Chap. 4.

  45. 45.

    Translated from the original in Spanish by the first mentioned author. On the gold standard in Argentina, see Salama (2000).

  46. 46.

    See Gwartney et al. (1996), particularly on the free trade aspects of dirigisme.

  47. 47.

    A possible analysis on this research line could be seen in Tejera et al. (2012).

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Futerman, A.G., Block, W.E. (2021). International Economics. In: The Austro-Libertarian Point of View. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-4691-1_5

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