Absolute advantage and comparative advantage are concepts frequently used in international trade and economics to help determine how efficiently a nation, business, or organization can produce goods when several factors are considered.
They have a significant impact on how and why countries and companies allocate resources to the creation of specific commodities and services. This article discusses absolute advantage, comparative advantage, and the similarities between the two.
The concept of absolute advantage is based on the distinction between the different capacities of businesses and nations to produce commodities efficiently. As a result, absolute advantage considers how well a particular product is produced. Additionally, it considers manufacturing goods and services for less money than the competitors by using lesser inputs during production.
This assessment helps nations prevent the manufacturing of goods and services that would generate little to no demand and ultimately result in losses. The kinds of goods a nation chooses to manufacture can be significantly influenced by its absolute advantage (or disadvantage) in a given industry.
A few of the elements that can give an organization an unbeatable advantage include:
- Reduced labor costs.
- Availability of a vast quantity of (natural) resources.
- A large amount of capital is readily available.
Some examples of absolute advantage are:
- Colombia offers suitable climate conditions for growing coffee. As a result, it can manufacture coffee for less money than other nations.
- Saudi Arabia has the greatest reservoir of oil in any country, which makes extraction easier than in any other country because the oil can only be extracted through drilling. In contrast, drilling and exploration costs are also included in other nations.
Comparative advantage is an economy’s ability to manufacture a certain good, product, or service at a lower cost than its trading rivals. Comparative advantage is a theory that explains why businesses, nations, or people can profit from the trade.
Comparative advantage, as it relates to international trade, refers to the goods that a nation can produce more easily or at a lower cost than other nations.
Even though this typically shows the advantages of trade, some modern economists now recognize that relying solely on comparative advantages can lead to resource exploitation and depletion in a nation.
In 1817, David Ricardo’s work On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, an English political economist, is largely credited with creating the law of comparative advantage.
Some examples of comparative advantage are as follows.
- Portugal used to produce wine for a reasonable price, but England could produce fabric for a reasonable price. But as time passed, Portugal ceased making fabric, and England stopped making wine. So instead, both nations chose to buy them through trade with one another.
- Cheap labor is where China and the US have a competitive edge. Chinese employees can create basic consumer goods for a lot less money.
- While specialized and capital-intensive labor represents the comparative advantage of the United States. At reduced opportunity costs, American labor produces high-end products or investment prospects.
- Trading in this manner and specializing are mutually beneficial for the US and China.
While absolute advantage and comparative advantage are often considered two completely different concepts, there are some similarities between the two ideas. Some of the similarities are given below.
- Economic Advantage
Absolute advantages and comparative advantages are crucial ideas in international commerce that assist nations in choosing how to produce goods domestically, allocate resources, import, export, and other policies.
Both are ultimately concerned with achieving a competitive advantage over other countries, corporations, or entities on the economic front. Absolute advantage involves creating more goods and services than rivals with the same resources. In contrast, comparative advantage involves producing superior goods to those of a rival nation with the same resources.
- Manufacturing Costs
Manufacturing costs, such as wages, materials, maintenance costs for factories, and transportation costs, are included in applying both absolute advantage and comparative advantage.
Experts in international commerce can determine which company has the lowest production costs while simultaneously making the most profit by analyzing both absolute and comparative advantages. However, they do take opportunity cost into account when determining comparative advantage.
Comparative advantage refers to reducing externalities to offer goods and services at lower prices than competitors, leading to larger profits and sales margins. On the other hand, absolute advantage refers to lowering production costs.
In both concepts, to have an absolute or comparative advantage, you must achieve a specialization one way or another.
In a field where one organization is superior to another, absolute advantage encourages specialization. In addition, absolute advantage encourages specialization in a field where the company has exceptional production capabilities regarding product quality and overall manufacturing time.
On the other hand, a comparative advantage encourages companies to concentrate their efforts on sectors with the lowest opportunity costs, enabling them to produce goods at a lower cost than competing goods. Moreover, considering manufacturing costs and the comparative advantages of other nations, comparative advantage encourages specialization.
- Similar Theoretical Approaches
Despite the differences on the economic side, both concepts have many similar theoretical approaches. For example, absolute and comparative advantages support the free trade approach.
A free trade agreement lowers import and export barriers between two or more nations. Under a free trade policy, there are little to no government tariffs, quotas, subsidies, or prohibitions that prevent the exchange of products and services across international borders.
Both also talk of a positive sum game, i.e., economic gains for both the host and the home country. They also support the concept of division of labor.
What are the similarities and differences between the absolute advantage theory and comparative advantage theory?
The country’s intrinsic capacity to produce particular items effectively and efficiently for a considerably lower marginal cost is its Absolute Advantage. On the other hand, comparative advantage refers to a nation’s ability to produce a particular good at a lower opportunity cost and marginal cost.
What is the difference between comparative advantage and competitive advantage?
The term “competitive advantage” describes a company’s capacity to set itself apart from its rivals. A company has a comparative advantage if it can produce a good at a lower cost than rival companies.
Why is a comparative advantage more important than an absolute advantage?
Comparative advantage aids in more efficient resource allocation and production decisions for nations, which is better for economies than absolute advantage.