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Comparative Advantage in Smith's "Wealth of Nations" and Ricardo's "Principles": a Brief History of its Early Development


  • Farhad Rassekh

    () (University of Hartford - Department of Economics)


The present paper delves into the writings of three thinkers on the theory of comparative advantage: Henry Martyn, Adam Smith, and David Ricardo. Martyn’s writings, by introducing what later was called «the eighteenth-century rule», prepared the path of transition from absolute advantage to comparative advantage as the basis of trade. Smith provided a description of comparative advantage outcome by observing that a poor country can rival a rich country in agricultural goods despite having an absolute disadvantage in both manufacturing and agricultural goods. The present paper focuses particularly on Smith because he has not received the attention he deserves in the literature on comparative advantage. In this intellectual odyssey, Ricardo plays the seminal role with his famous example of England exchanging cloth for Portuguese wine.

Suggested Citation

  • Farhad Rassekh, 2015. "Comparative Advantage in Smith's "Wealth of Nations" and Ricardo's "Principles": a Brief History of its Early Development," History of Economic Ideas, Fabrizio Serra Editore, Pisa - Roma, vol. 23(1), pages 59-76.
  • Handle: RePEc:hid:journl:v:23:y:2015:1:4:p:59-76

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    Cited by:

    1. Morales Meoqui, Jorge, 2012. "On the distribution of authorship-merits for the comparative-advantage proposition," MPRA Paper 35905, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Morales Meoqui, Jorge & Assistant, JHET, 2020. "Overcoming Absolute And Comparative Advantage: A Reappraisal Of The Relative Cheapness Of Foreign Commodities As The Basis Of International Trade," OSF Preprints u6esg, Center for Open Science.

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