Published on February 20, 2008
The Theory of Factor Proportions: The Theory of Factor Proportions Brief Introduction The Theory Contains Four Core Propositions : The Theory Contains Four Core Propositions Factor endowments and trade patterns Factor price equalization Distribution of income Factor growth and output patterns Factor endowments and trade patterns: Factor endowments and trade patterns Natural resource version: USA is relatively well endowed with land. Therefore USA exports farm (land-intensive) products. Singapore is relatively well endowed with marine traffic locational resources. Therefore, Singapore exports shipping, marine insurance, ship repair plus many derivative services. Factor endowments & trade patterns: Factor endowments & trade patterns Developed resource version: Japan, USA, France & Germany are relatively well endowed, after histories of much investment, with non-human productive resources or capital. Therefore, they export capital-intensive manufactured goods. Factor endowments & trade patterns: Factor endowments & trade patterns Do they? France and USA are the world’s two biggest exporters of agricultural products. Land intensive? Leontief (Nobel laureate) discovered (1960s) after extensive data crunching that the USA exports labor intensive goods; to Japan? To China? To Luxembourg? To India? Factor endowments & trade patterns: Factor endowments & trade patterns Try to explain that one. Maybe US labor is (was) human capital intensive. US endowment of capital intensive labor is (was) relatively large by international standards. Hence, our labor intensive exports were really human capital intensive. Try that one on the shop floor at Toyota City! Factor endowments & trade patterns: Factor endowments & trade patterns Do tastes matter? Or superior goods? D D D D S S S S DS DS USA ROW EX IM IM EX If both countries have the same tastes, demand curves are DD. USA, being heavily capital endowed, has supply curve further to right. Hence, USA exports & ROW imports the good. But if higher USA income (or stronger tastes) determine the US demand curve DS:DS, US will import the good & export the other, labor intensive good. Hen, desu nee! Factor Endowments: Factor Endowments Although land, capital and highly skilled labor may be relatively abundant in the United States & other developed countries, labor in general is relatively scarce. This has many implications with respect to trade policy, income distribution and other matters. Factor price equalization: Factor price equalization Labor: Through intense global competition, wages and the return to capital tend to equalize across trading nations. Is this true? Are your wages determined in Bangladesh? Are low-skilled US workers vulnerable? Many who were on the streets of Seattle & Honolulu think so. Factor Price Equalization & Productivity: Factor Price Equalization & Productivity A useful abstraction: visualize a worker as an embodiment of natural and acquired skills or sources of productivity. The skills are heterogeneous; some are highly competitive internationally, others are company or geographically specific. Globalization transforms the specific into global, but the transformation is incomplete. Factor Price Equalization & Productivity: Factor Price Equalization & Productivity High tech skills tend to be global and to correlate with mobility. Medium and low tech skills tend to be more local and less mobile. However, a major exception may be many low tech skills in the First World which are highly substitutable for skills that exist widely in the Third World. Factor Price Equalization & Productivity: Factor Price Equalization & Productivity Due to opportunity differentials, low-skill labor in the First World embodies, on average, a greater concentration of skill units than that embodied in Third World labor. If this is true, wages of low-skilled labor will remain higher in the First World, even if global competition forces relative equalization. Factor price equalization: Factor price equalization Capital: Heavy investment in a country, whether by its own residents or through foreign direct investment (FDI) leads to falling returns. Resulting excess capacity in Asian countries caused falling returns & inability to pay off loans. Asia ceased to be a better investment than developed countries. Trade & income distribution: Trade & income distribution Free trade: Land is abundant in USA, scarce in JPN. Free trade enables USA to share its land globally, in an environment in which land is not so abundant. Hence, US farm income rises. However, US abundance swamps JPN’s scarcity causing JPN’s farm income to fall. Trade & income distribution: Trade & income distribution Protection: Protection of JPN’s agricultural sector creates a local monopoly, free of USA’s abundant competition and raises JPN’s farm income (lowers USA’s income). Of course, JPN’s consumers pay more. Farmers and related industries win; consumers & others lose. Trade & income distribution: Trade & income distribution Industrial products: JPN’s automobiles & consumer electronic products and USA’s software, hardware & entertainment output are produced by industries relatively well endowed with key inputs. Owners of these key inputs profit from globalization if exporters, but lose if importers. Factor growth & output: Factor growth & output The down side: In a small country, world goods prices are set by large, global markets. Hence, if, for example, population (labor force) rises, labor-intensive industries will grow and capital-intensive industries will shrink. Factor growth & output: Factor growth & output The up side: However, if the country succeeds in developing its physical & human capital stocks, capital and high-skill labor- intensive industries will grow and low- skill labor industries will shrink. This sounds rather like Japan, Korea, Singapore and other countries in the early stages of their development.