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The Choice: A Fable of Free Trade and Protection [Paperback]

Russell Roberts
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 Sep 2006 0131433547 978-0131433540 3

Target Market: for principles of economics, surveys of economics, international economics, international trade, or managerial economics. No prior economics is assumed, but the material can be taught at all levels.


Written as a novel, the book makes the complex concepts, issues and terminology of international trade understandable for students.


Professors complain that their students cannot grasp the nature of how some economic tools are used or how they work in life.  This novel bridges the gap of concepts with applications by use of a fictional story.


David Ricardo comes to life to discuss international trade theory and policy with Ed Johnson, a fictional American television manufacturer seeking trade protection from television manufacturers. Their dialogue is a sophisticated, rigorous discussion of virtually every major issue in trade theory and policy. To illustrate the positive and normative effects of international trade and trade policy, Ricardo takes the reader and Ed Johnson into the future to see an America of free trade and an America of complete self-sufficiency. The fictional element brings these topics to life so that students gain the intuition and understanding of how trade changes the lives of people and the industries they work in. The fundamental intuition of how international markets function including general equilibrium effects and policy analysis is provided.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall; 3 edition (28 Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0131433547
  • ISBN-13: 978-0131433540
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.5 x 0.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 855,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars could be better 16 Nov 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
there was a lot of pages who were damaged so that wasn't real good
but the steak i eat at the restaurant was good
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5.0 out of 5 stars economics challenge 10 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bought as a challenging read. for a novice economist friend. Haven't seen him since, but Iexpect the deep questions and arguments soon. The book was recommended y another friend BAcc.FInst Acc. MBA and Tuck scholar - the recommendatin has pedigree, but I may be directing the questions from one friend to the other and avoiding any intermediate role!
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  26 reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wish "It's a Wonderful Life" were more like this 24 Aug 2007
By Ryan Alger - Published on Amazon.com
I don't really consider this a work of fiction, and neither does the author. It is in a fiction format, but its primary purpose is to make the case against protectionism, and for free markets. Roberts does this beautifully, raising and dismissing almost every argument for protectionism, and doing this with charm, wit, and almost a complete lack of venom.

The story follows the time-traveling journey and conversation of Ed Johnson (a businessman looking for protection form Japanese competition) and his guardian angle David Ricardo (modeled after the little-known economist.) Together they travel to the future, back to the past, and through alternate timelines to demonstrate Robert's point.

Through this journey, Ricardo corrects some critical mistakes in economic theory; such as the `zero-sum theory', misconceptions on the nature of supply and demand, the role and meaning of wages and `real' wages, the mythical "dangers" of a trade deficit, what imports and exports really are, and most of all, dismisses the myth that trade with other countries hurts the American worker overall (which he admits, in a smaller sense, it sometimes does.)

The book takes some leaps of logic, which the author fully admits in the back of the book; such as the town of Star (Ed's hometown) being unchanged in the `protectionist' universe. These little plot devices are not meant to represent reality, but demonstrate more abstract points, in that sense, it is more like a metaphor.

Overall, the book makes one of the strongest cases ageists the practicality of protectionism that I have ever heard. He also fits some talk as to the moral case against it, that it is really an issue of freedom, and no one person has the right to force another in to a certain kind of behavior (A.K.A., buying American products) and that "America" is all about dreams and growth, something not very possible in the protectionist world

My only complaint would be that I wanted more elaboration on some sections of the `conversation'; such as the `dumping' segment. Robert's makes a good case that dumping is not really practical for anybody, that the `dumper' would have to make up for lost profits from lowering their prices. What I don't understand is....what if a company could cover their lost profits in profits from another product, or section of their company (Such as a department store lowering prices on televisions and allowing the produce-department to cover the loss.) I wish Robert's would have gone in to slightly more detail.

There are several section of the book like this; but I want to make clear is that Robert's never claims that this is the ultimate source for `anti-protectionist' arguments, he even suggests further reading in the back of the book, something all reasonable people should do if they are truly interested in understanding the complexities of economics.

I love Robert's style of writing, his books are not just informative, but entertaining, something very hard to achieve for this subject matter. The book was good enough that I ordered His other book, The Invisible Heart, form Amazon. After seeing what he did to It's a Wonderful life, I can't wait to see what he does for a romance novel.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How free trade benefits us all 28 Nov 2006
By Janet K. Marta - Published on Amazon.com
This is the third edition of Roberts' novel about the benefits of free trade, using "It's a Wonderful Life" as his template. David Ricardo "touches down" from heaven to earth (like Clarence), to help convince Ed (George Bailey) that he should not support protectionism. The previous versions focused more on threats that were perceived from Japan and Nafta. Here, Roberts uses India and China as his examples.

To me, one of the most appealing things about Roberts' work is his honesty. He doesn't pretend that economic change doesn't hurt, but he also focuses on the benefits in the longer term. He writes in such a pleasant style that economics becomes accessible to people who are "math phobic."

His other book, The Invisible Heart, is at least as good as this one.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short, Accessible defense of Free Trade / Ricardo 26 Jun 2010
By Will Jerom - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Content Summary: This book is a fairly effective defense of Free Trade, and focuses upon a summary of the ideas of David Ricardo. It is set as a imaginary dialogue between Ricardo, and a fictional U.S. television manufacturer. Ricardo is trying to redeem his lost soul (very much modeled after the Jimmy Stewart picture, "It's a Wonderful Life") by defending his ideas about free trade and comparative advantage to the U.S. businessman. The intent is to defeat the idea that tariffs and trade barrier protectionism helps.

Analytical Review: For those not highly motivated to read Ricardo's economic classic ("On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation'), this is a very readable alternative that simplifies his ideas. It presents the free trade arguments in a very accessible format. Many examples are very clear and compelling, others not so much. Whether you with free trade mantra or not, this is a good, clear defense to be read, digested, and reflected upon.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful Primer on the Free Market System 3 Mar 2009
By R. Yavner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This tiny book is an excellent primer for anyone who wanted to know more about Free Market Economics. It does a very good job of explaining tariffs and subsidies and how that affects the market as a whole. The book is written like a story, with one character trying to convince another of something that he shouldn't do (you'll have to read it to find out what). Overall, I think this is a good book for juvenile and adult alike who know very little to nothing about the economics of a free market.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Choice: A Fine Choice 17 Oct 2007
By Michael W. Terrell - Published on Amazon.com
Russell Roberts has taken the concept of free trade and made it understandable. I originally purchased this book for my college International Economics class, but it would work for high school economics classes as well. It is easy to read and has well rounded characters. As a future educator I would certainly recommend this book.
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