Book Review: The Choice: A Fable of Free Trade and Protectionism
In the acclaimed novel, The Choice: A Fable of Free Trade and Protectionism, author Russell Roberts, an economist and writer, tells a fictional story that enlightens readers to the wonders of the economic system. Russell provides an insightful, thought provoking story that illustrates protectionism and free trade, while making the concepts and arguments easy to comprehend.
The story is told through dialogue with two main characters, David Ricardo, an 18th and 19th century economist and Ed Johnson, a CEO for a company that produces televisions. Johnson’s company is facing competition from an overseas Japanese company. Through the use of these characters, Russell shows how the economic system works. David Ricardo is illustrated as one of the early advocates for free trade. After his death, he returns to Earth to complete one final act, involving Ed Johnson.
The Choice begins by following David Ricardo on his journey to heaven. At heaven’s entrance, Ricardo faces his judgment. The master of the gates does not allow him to pass because of his theory on free trade. Ricardo then presents a challenge that will prove his theory and allow him to enter his resting place. The master of the gates then challenges him to change the mind of Ed Johnson, a man who is for protectionism and wants to enact a tariff on Japanese televisions. Ricardo must persuade Johnson of his ideas, that it is more efficient for countries to produce more of what they are efficient at producing and import everything else, instead of producing items that they are not efficient in producing. Johnson is chosen as the man to intervene on because Ricardo sees a problem that Johnson is making. During the time, the 1960s, Johnson, in attempts to protect his workers and defend against Japanese competition, wants to have a tariff on Japanese televisions. To do this, Johnson enlists a local politician, Frank Bates. This soon results in the Congressman propagating for protectionism in hopes that it will help him get closer in the race to become United States President. Ricardo sees the problems unfolding and will step in to intervene. To illustrate the concept to Johnson, Ricardo takes him into the future showing him two case scenarios: an America that operates on free trade, and an America that attempts to be completely self-sufficient. It is through this journey that Ricardo is able to change Johnson’s mind.
Roberts does a fine job illustrating and convincing the reader that free trade is the way to be successful. For this reason, the reader will begin to side with Ricardo and his ideas, and agree with the things that he purposes. In turn, the reader will also view Frank Bates as the bad guy of sorts and disagree with the things that he is promoting. Roberts could have improved his argument by researching free trade even more, and including points such as social responsibility. While it is important to secure the...