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Forum for Social Economics

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 147–164

First Online: 05 January 2008


Probably one of the most controversial contributions to the literature of international trade theory was offered by the late social economist John Culbertson. In his view, low wage competition among corporations in a world characterized by capital mobility and massive trade deficits undermines the foundation trade theory based on David Ricardo’s celebrated notion of comparative advantage. Instead, there are several good reasons to believe that international trade with China, India, Vietnam, etc. will be governed by absolute advantage. The current essay is dedicated to the virtually ignored work of Culbertson, and it is meant as an invitation for social economists to critically evaluate the argument and in the process make an attempt to point out where it goes wrong.

KeywordsComparative advantage Low wage competition Outsourcing John Culbertson Absolute advantage Herman Daly’s help on a subtle but important point is gratefully acknowledged.

EXPLORATIONS IN SOCIAL ECONOMICS is a regular feature in the Forum in which a prominent social economist discusses a current policy issue through the lens of his or her particular approach to social economics. The essays are commissioned by the Associate Editor in consultation with the editor and are reviewed by the editorial staff before publication. There is a designated discussion forum at the Association for Social Economics website specifically to encourage dialogue on the topics covered in -Explorations in Social Economics.-

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Autor: Mark A. Lutz


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