Absolute Advantage

Written By:
Paul Tracy
Updated August 5, 2020

What is Absolute Advantage?

Absolute advantage exists when a business can produce a good or service more efficiently than any other business.

Famed economist David Ricardo coined the term in the early 1800s.

How Does Absolute Advantage Work?

Let's assume Company XYZ and Company ABC make wood chips. Company XYZ is located in Oregon, where lumber is abundant; Company ABC is located in Death Valley, California, where lumber is not abundant.

Company ABC must spend more money than Company XYZ to make wood chips because it has to bring wood in from other states, which makes its supply costs 20% higher than Company XYZ's supply costs. Also, Company ABC uses four workers to manufacture a unit of chips; Company XYZ uses two. As a result, the cost per unit of wood chips at Company ABC is $2.50; it is only $1.25 at Company XYZ. Because it is more efficient, Company XYZ has an absolute advantage to Company ABC.

Why Does Absolute Advantage Matter?

Absolute advantage is not a theory of relativity. If a company is relatively better at making a product, it should make that product and not something else. As such, absolute advantage is an important concept in global trade and is why many countries concentrate on producing a good or service more efficiently than other countries.