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The Choice: A Fable of Free Trade and Protectionism
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The Choice: A Fable of Free Trade and Protectionism

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  442 ratings  ·  40 reviews
Written as a novel, the book makes the complex concepts, issues and terminology of international trade understandable for students. Professors complain that their students cannot grasp the nature of how some economic tools are used or how they work in life. This novel bridges the gap of concepts with applications by use of a fictional story. David Ricardo comes to life to ...more
Paperback, 132 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by Pearson (first published May 1st 2000)
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Apr 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Well, this was hard to rate. The "storyline" part of this "economic fable" was weaker, I thought, than The Invisible Heart, but the economic explanations were generally pretty well done. Maybe 3 for the story, 4 for the economics. This would have been hard to fit better in a storyline, I guess. Even armed with this book and all the statistics the world has produced, it seems to me that most of this country is still not ready, willing, or able to hear the arguments for free trade. Kind of sad. ...more
Victor Claar
Sep 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Simple fable of free trade and why protectionist tactics don't help anybody in the long run, and almost no one in the short run. Couldn't be a more timely read, given our new tariffs against Chinese tires and steel.

This book also makes the most eloquent case I've ever read for welcoming goods from abroad in all cases, even if another nation has imposed protectionist barriers (tariffs, quotas, etc.) against our own goods. It may not "feel" fair, but it's the best, most humane, way to go.

Imagine that George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life had wrestled not with the impulse to throw himself off of a bridge, but with the decision whether or not to endorse a protectionist presidential candidate whose platform promised to bar all imports from American shores – and that he was guided not by Clarence, but by the ghost of a long-dead economist, who showed him two different versions of America: one with free trade, and the other with barriers to imports. This is the premise of The ...more
Eren Özcan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sally Ewan
Jun 18, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
I had a harder time getting through this book than I have had with other of Roberts's books. I got bogged down in the economic details of free trade and protectionism. Nonetheless, I admire Roberts's determination to present these principles to the average reader to help them better understand economics.
Jul 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
I had to read this book for a class, but I enjoyed it. It's written as a "It's a Wonderful Life" like narrative, but includes facts and theories on free trade. I recommend it to all policy-makers, and anyone who has ever been unsure about the benefits of trade.
Jan 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
A great illustration of how trade enriches all
Sara Mendez
Oct 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
(3.8/5) - I took an International Economics class at NYU. This was one of my favorite economics courses and what I learned in this class has proven to be useful in my understanding of current economic policies and political debates. Reading The Choice was instrumental in helping me place some of the notoriously abstract economic theories in a real-world context and in helping me see how these economic policies affect people and why the choices we make matter.

"The Choice is a novel that bridges
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Simply terrific for teaching. You can find a series of discussion questions in the #EconlibReads Facebook group and using same hashtag on Twitter. A PDF will soon be available as well. Super timely reading today, alas.
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Roberts presents several important economic concepts through the voice of angel David Ricardo, which makes for a pretty interesting set up. The message of the book is one that is important to be read today, with protectionism and America First rhetoric gaining traction. The characters often go over concepts over again in more detail, so by the end of the book you’ll feel that you understand some of the concepts better, so it’s worth it! Also, I read the whole book in Russ Roberts’ voice, which ...more
Kevin Gomez
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great book for intro to micro.
Kim Killian
Dec 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
I am new to the world of economics and was presented this book as a precursor to the Free Trade perspective. The Choice presents the concepts of Free Trade from a storyline perspective between an Angel and a man named Ed. If you can get by the idea of God driving the concept of free trade as the right way to think and take the pieces the storyline is trying to present and take this presentation as a piece of the puzzle or the piece of what economics is - then your good. This book was a great way ...more
Alan Marchant
Jul 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
If you are at all unclear about the economics of free trade, this little book will clear things up in the easiest possible way. Roberts presents fictional dialog between the (truly) great economist David Ricardo and a well-meaning capitalist who wants to protect American jobs.

The last couple of years have highlighted how diverse and politicized the opinions of economists can be. So when such a substantial concept (global free trade) garners near unanimity among the experts, it's well worth a
Aug 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read this book as a primer for my international Economics class which I am currently enrolled in.

I cannot comment intelligibly on the matter, except for the fact that I came out smarter with a strong opinion agreeing with the author for free trade and against protectionism and really enjoyed reading the conversational style and the characters dialogue on the issue. Really well written and easy to grasp and follow the logic. Maybe a little repetitive, but that doesn't hurt to drive home the
Dec 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A must read for every American. As weak as the story like may be, I think there are few ways this book could have been made easier to understand. It was concise, and presented every question that I could theorize against free trade. It opens your mind to how a powerful economy truly works.

Roberts hammered home the idea that trade doesn't change the NUMBER of jobs, just the TYPE of jobs within a nation.
Feb 11, 2012 rated it liked it
The plot follows the likes of "It's a Wonderful Life" where an angel is granted the right to "touchdown" on Earth and provide insight into what the future may look like based on decisions today. Has the butterfly effect to it and is really a very enlightening read. I love it and it makes me feel so much better about free trade policies and how important they are to the global economy. Read as part of my International Finance course at the University of Oregon.
Feb 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finally finished this book! I started it last year and hadn't picked it up in months. I think it does a good job of simplifying the case for Free Trade and getting rid of Protectionism. I'm convinced that the roundabout way to wealth is a good one.
Eugenia Turculet
Jun 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is a good explanation as to why allowing free trade is for the best of both developed and developing countries. The book is rather an easy read for the amount of economic theories and concepts that it introduces in favor of free trade.
Feb 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
The "story" part is virtually nonexistent. But it's nice, clear, lightweight explanation of free trade and protectionism—which is really what it was meant to be. I recommend it, not as a story, but because the principles explained are very important.
Mike Kolsky
Jan 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A very easy, , enjoyable, and approachable read. Lots of information, no math or Econ jargon.

Paints protetionism for what it really is... self-interested politicing that benfits the connected few at the expense of the many.
Aug 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: College students
Recommended to Lynne by: Member of a support group
This is a book about complex economic issues, simplified and written in a very engaging fictional format. I highly recommend this book to anyone wishing to understand how the economy works, and especially to students in high school and college.
Nov 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Not a book I'd recommend for casual enjoyment (this is to be a text in a class I'm teaching soon), but if you're interested in learning about the benefits of free trade for the US, this is actually pretty entertaining (it is written like a story).
Dustin Flanary
Jul 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics
Short, very enjoyable modern fable. It's a wonderful life style with a dead British economist (David Ricardo) explaining the perils and problems with protectionism. Highly recommend. Clear and powerful. Hint: the most impactful part relates to the title! :) Read if you get the chance.
Yueming Chen
Jan 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book employed simple examples to favor free trade over protectionism. It also effectively explained differences between ambiguous terms, which is something new. Looking for more Ricardo insights presented in a traditional form.
Tyler Baker
Oct 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who wishes to be an informed voter
This is perhaps the easiest to understand, best written book to understand economic trade policy in a practical, not overly detailed way. Anyone who is going to EVER GOING TO VOTE should read this book.
Jun 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
International Economics explained in an easy fun to read story.
Jan 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good explanation of free trade and protectionism, told in a story form so the layman can get a grasp of the concepts. I'd recommend it.
Jan 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: in-ny
This is an interesting and unique book for understanding basic international economics. For anything other than that, it's incredibly boring!
Mar 14, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read the book over a few weeks whenever I went to the bathroom. The narrative made it interesting and it was a comfortable read for someone with no economics background.
Feb 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Not entirely realistic, but a great way to learn about the positive aspects of free trade.
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Russell David "Russ" Roberts is a professor of economics at George Mason University. He blogs at

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