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Economy, Impact of the World Economy

national currencies, people doctors, trading of goods, industrial revolution, interdependence

Today, virtually every country in the world is affected by what happens in other countries. Some of these effects are a result of political events, such as the overthrow of one government in favor of another. But a great deal of the interdependence among the nations is economic in nature, based on the production and trading of goods and services.

One of the most rapidly growing and changing sectors of the U.S. economy involves trade with other nations. In recent decades, the level of goods and services imported from other countries by U.S. consumers, businesses, and government agencies has increased dramatically. But so, too, has the level of U.S. goods and services sold as exports to consumers, businesses, and government agencies in other nations. This international trade and the policies that encourage or restrict the growth of imports and exports have wide-ranging effects on the U.S. economy.

As the nation with the world’s largest economy, the United States plays a key role on the international political and economic stages. The United States is also the largest trading nation in the world, exporting and importing more goods and services than any other country.. Some people worry that extensive levels of international trade may have hurt the U.S. economy, and U.S. workers in particular. But while some firms and workers have been hurt by international competition, in general economists view international trade like any other kind of voluntary trade: Both parties can gain, and usually do. International trade increases the total level of production and consumption in the world, lowers the costs of production and prices that consumers pay, and increases standards of living. How does that happen?

All over the world, people specialize in producing particular goods and services, then trade with others to get all of the other goods and services they can afford to buy and consume. It is far more efficient for some people to be lawyers and other people doctors, butchers, bakers, and teachers than it is for each person to try to make or do all of the things he or she consumes.

In earlier centuries, the majority of trade took place between individuals living in the same town or city. Later, as transportation and communications networks improved, individuals began to trade more frequently with people in other places. The industrial revolution that began in the 18th century greatly increased the volume of goods that could be shipped to other cities and regions, and eventually to other nations. As people became more prosperous, they also traveled more to other countries and began to demand the new products they encountered during their travels.

The basic motivation and benefits of international trade are actually no different from those that lead to trade within a nation. But international trade differs from trade within a nation in two major ways. First, international trade involves at least two national currencies, which must usually be exchanged before goods and services can be imported or exported. Second, nations sometimes impose barriers on international trade that they do not impose on trade that occurs entirely inside their own country.

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