“A sprightly and clear-eyed testimonial to the value of globalization” (The Wall Street Journal) as seen through six surprising everyday goods—the taco salad, the Honda Odyssey, the banana, the iPhone, the college degree, and the blockbuster HBO series Game of Thrones.
Trade allows us to sell what we produce at home and purchase what we don’t. It lowers prices and gives us greater variety and innovation. Yet understanding our place in the global trade network is rarely simple. Trade has become an easy excuse for struggling economies, a scapegoat for our failures to adapt to a changing world, and—for many Americans on both the right and the left—nothing short of a four-letter word.
But as Fred P. Hochberg reminds us, trade is easier to understand than we commonly think. In Trade Is Not a Four-Letter Word, you’ll learn how NAFTA became a populist punching bag on both sides of the aisle. You’ll learn how Americans can avoid the grim specter of the $10 banana. And you’ll finally discover the truth about whether or not, as President Trump has famously tweeted, “trade wars are good and easy to win.” (Spoiler alert—they aren’t.)
Hochberg debunks common trade myths by pulling back the curtain on six everyday products, each with a surprising story to tell: the taco salad, the Honda Odyssey, the banana, the iPhone, the college degree, and the smash hit HBO series Game of Thrones. Behind these six examples are stories that help explain not only how trade has shaped our lives so far but also how we can use trade to build a better future for our own families, for America, and for the world.
Trade Is Not a Four-Letter Word is the antidote to today’s acronym-laden trade jargon pitched to voters with simple promises that rarely play out so one-dimensionally. Packed with colorful examples and highly digestible explanations, Trade Is Not a Four-Letter Word is “an accessible, necessary book that will increase our understanding of trade and economic policies and the ways in which they impact our daily lives” (Library Journal, starred review).
Hochberg, a former chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, aims to "demystify, debunk, elucidate, and enliven" the issue of global trade in this quip-filled and illuminating debut. He begins with a glossary of economic terms, then sketches the history of American trade before correcting such myths as the assumption that trade deficits matter. Hochberg justifies his pro-trade stance by analyzing commodities including taco salad, which he says demonstrates the importance of global supply chains and the value of consumer variety, and a U.S. education, which he claims has "helped create a pipeline of American values and international friendship with the rest of the world." Hochberg acknowledges that globalism has resulted in the loss of some American jobs to foreign workers. To mitigate such outsourcing, he advocates a universal basic income, worker retraining programs, and a stronger social safety net. Hochberg hails the "flexible, adaptable work opportunities" created by such companies as Uber and Airbnb without fully addressing the limits of the gig economy, but he balances capitalist cheerleading with an acknowledgment that "trade creates winners and losers." Lay readers looking to reach a more informed opinion on trade policy would do well to pick up this nuanced and approachable account.
The Former Chairman of EXIM has written a wonderful book about trade. Thankfully it is written so that even people like me, who know very little about trade, can understand it. It is both informative and funny.
Especially in these turbulent times, it is an important read to understand what works and what doesn’t. Highly recommended.