Wanna Trade?

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Today’s lecture is on international trade.

It is appropriate that this material should fall between the study of microeconomics and macroeconomics, just as international trade bridges the micro and the macro in real life, said Frontis W. Johnston Professor of Economics and Dean of Faculty Emeritus Clark Ross.

He was speaking to a dozen Economics 101 students in room 146 of Dana Science Laboratory.

Ross noted that the lecture format may seem quaint to some, with no fancier bell or whistle than a photocopied handout. But it is effective, and so it endures.

In the plainspoken spirit of his professorial chair’s namesake, the late Dean of Faculty Emeritus Johnson, Ross’s lecture evoked the big picture while drawing out skilled, focused and timely applications.

Ross padded around the small amphitheater’s black soapstone lab table in his trademark boat shoes. He paused occasionally, hitching a haunch up on a corner, leaning in to make his next point.

First, he lined up the hour’s intellectual targets in the sights of the economic bottom line: Who pays how much and who benefits? The thesis: Some may benefit more than others, but any trade is good trade.

Then, historical context: Since World War II, trade has been one of three main thrusts of globalization, along with movement of investment capital and people.

A dash of theory: Trade makes it possible for a society to consume beyond its “production-possibility frontier.”

Finally, a tip of the hat to the work of Smith (1776), Ricardo (1810) and Davidson professor of Economics Vikram Kumar, and Ross propelled the class through a series of hypothetical equations involving the United States and Egypt producing and trading wine and corn.

Each country and commodity won a few rounds, circling back to, and supporting, and supported by, the original premise: “The fact that one country benefits more than another does not negate the fact that there is mutual benefit.”

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About Author

John Syme '85

Senior Writer John Syme graduated from Davidson with a French degree in 1985. After gigs in newspaper, advertising, translation in France and cross-country travel writing in the United States, he returned to alma mater in 2001. He has no immediate plans to graduate again.

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