Part I: Introduction
International Trade: Why It Matters to You Personally, and How this Guide Can Help
To the average Joe, the issues of international trade theory seem largely irrelevant. Most people are not directly involved in the process of importing and exporting, after all, and most people exchange currency at the airport or an ATM on the rare international vacation.
The ignorance of this view is easily exposed. If you check the labels on the clothing you’re wearing right now, chances are one of your garments came from a different nation. How did that T-shirt get here? International trade.
WHY WE WROTE THIS GUIDE: THE PRINCIPLES OF THIS TEXT
In person, the authors of this guide can (and often do) wax philosophical about the wonder and specifics of international trade. At the same time, we understand that there is an opportunity cost to studying trade. After all, you could be playing X-Box, wooing a significant other, or studying for a class you prefer. More positively, we’re also acutely aware that even serious studying can yield fading memories of a class several months or years after the final exam. (We’ve even forgotten about some classes in their entirety.)
Put simply: studying the text isn’t always the best way to maximize your grade or ensure you get the take-home message. That’s strike one against the textbook.
Beyond the physiological limitations of memory and the desire of students to maximize their grade with minimal studying, we think this guide fills another important void. As TAs for undergraduate-level economics courses, we’ve come to learn that the goals of textbook authors and students often don’t exactly match up.
Professors writing a textbook have two handicaps. First, they need to present the entire picture, start to finish. It would be irresponsible for a professor to leave bits and pieces out of a model or concept. As a result, professors tend to include peripheral information and precisely-worded definitions that are often useless for a first-timer.
Second, most professors have been professors for so long that they are out of touch with what it means to be an economics newbie. We’re going to do our best to explain the basics behind every concept we examine, so the reader isn’t faced with that awful question, “Wait, what?” We probably won’t explain why demand curves slope downwards and supply curves slope upwards, but we’ll come close.
In that light, this guide utilizes a “just the facts” approach. Our goal is to give you the few graphs and concepts you truly need to know to get an A, period. Our hunch is that in so doing, you will score higher in the short run and remember more in the long run.
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