At the start of the twenty-first century, international aspects of economics remain as important and controversial as ever. In the last decade alone, major currency and Financial crises have rocked industrializing countries from East Asia to Latin America; countries in Europe have given up their national currencies in favor of a common currency, the euro; and growing trade and financial linkages between industrial and developing countries have sparked debate and even open protest inspired by claims that economic "globalization" has worsened worldwide ills ranging from poverty to pollution. Although the United States is more self-sufficient than nations with smaller economies, problems of international economic policy have assumed primacy and now occupy a prominent place on newspapers' front pages.
Recent general developments in the world economy raise concerns that have preoccupied international economists for more than two centuries, such as the nature of the international adjustment mechanism and the merits of free trade compared with protection. As always in international economics, however, the interplay of events and ideas has led to new modes of analysis. Three notable examples of recent progress are the asset market approach to exchange rates; new theories of foreign trade based on increasing returns and market structure rather than comparative advantage; and the intertemporal analysis of international capital flows, which has been central both in refining the concept of "external balance" and in examining the determinants of developing country borrowing and default.
The idea of writing this book came out of our experience in teaching international economics to undergraduates and business students since the late 1970s. We perceived two main challenges in teaching. The first was to communicate to students the exciting intellectual advances in this dynamic field. The second was to show how the development of international economic theory has traditionally been shaped by the need to understand the changing world economy and analyze actual problems in international economic policy.
We found that published textbooks did not adequately meet these challenges. Too often, international economics textbooks confront students with a bewildering array of special models and assumptions from which basic lessons are difficult to extract. Because many of these special models are outmoded, students are left puzzled about the real-world relevance of the analysis. As a result, many textbooks often leave a gap between the somewhat antiquated material to be covered in class and the exciting issues that dominate current research and policy debates. That gap has widened dramatically as the importance of international economic problems—and enrollments in international economics courses—have grown.
This book is our attempt to provide an up-to-date and understandable analytical framework for illuminating current events and bringing the excitement of international economics into the classroom. In analyzing both the real and monetary sides of the subject, our approach has been to build up, step by step, a simple, unified framework for communicating the grand traditional insights as well as the newest findings and approaches. To help the student grasp and retain the underlying logic of international economics, we motivate the theoretical development at each stage by pertinent data or policy questions.