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Understanding Prosperity Through Change, Progress, and Trade Student Guide

How does trade increase individual and societal prosperity?

How has the world made economic progress in the past few centuries?

What does it mean to prosper individually versus living in a prosperous society?

In this activity, you will…
  • define prosperity, comparative advantage, factors of production, capital, and entrepreneurship 
  • examine examples of change and progress throughout history.
  • evaluate the costs and benefits of change and progress on society.
  • use cost/benefit analysis to identify the relationship between trade and prosperity.
  • explain the connection between the principles of a free society, economic change, and economic prosperity.


Directions: As you watch the Prosperity video, think about what prosperity means or looks like to you or how it might be achieved.


Directions: As you watch the Trade video, think about how trade impacts your daily life.


Directions: Consider the following quote on trade. What do you think it means, and why is it important?

“Commerce is the cure for the most destructive prejudices, for it is almost a general rule that wherever we find agreeable manners, there commerce flourishes; and that wherever there is commerce, there we meet with agreeable manners. Commercial laws, it may be said, improve manners… we every day see, that they polish and refine the most barbarous.” — Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755)


Directions: Reflect on the Brown Bag Trade Game and answer the following questions: 

  • What made you decide if you wanted to trade or not? 
  • How did the ratings change across each round of change? 
  • How did expanding the number of people students could trade with affect student ratings?


Directions: As you watch the Progress video, think about examples of social, political, and economic improvements in the United States.


Directions: As you watch the Change video, think about how changes in technology, medicine, and production affect your life.


Directions: As you read your example and listen to other groups, answer the following questions:

  • Explain how economic principles helped you determine an answer to your question.
  • What economic principles unite all of these examples?
  • What leads to someone gaining comparative advantage?
Can Simone Biles play basketball well against LeBron James?  Could LeBron James compete well in the balance beam against Simone Biles?  Explain your reasoning.
Should Elon Musk mow his own lawn or should he pay someone else to do it? Explain your reasoning.
Should you represent yourself in a court of law or should you hire an attorney to represent you?  Explain your reasoning.
Why do some people hire someone to do things they could do themselves, such as basic plumbing, landscaping, etc.?


Directions: As you read your example and listen to other groups, answer the following questions:

  • Based on what you just read, what circumstances made economic change possible?
First Industrial Revolution
Second Industrial Revolution
The Information Age

Assess & Reflect: 

Directions: Contemplate the following quotes. Choose two and then briefly explain in their own words what the quote means in a modern context. How did changes in trade and comparative advantage help lead to peaceful prosperity in many parts of the world in the modern day?

“Peace is the natural effect of trade. Two nations who traffic with each other become reciprocally dependent; for if one has an interest in buying, the other has an interest in selling; and thus their union is founded on their mutual necessities. The total privation of trade, on the contrary, produces robbery .” – Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755)


“If goods don’t cross borders, armies will.” – Frederic Bastiat (1801-1856)


“Go into the London Stock Exchange…and you will see representatives from all nations gathered together for the utility of men. Here Jew, Mohammedan and Christian deal with each other as though they were all of the same faith, and only apply the word infidel to people who go bankrupt. Here the Presbyterian trusts the Anabaptist and the Anglican accepts a promise from the Quaker.” – Voltaire (1694-1778)


“Commerce tends to wear off those prejudices which maintain distinction & animosity between nations. It softens & polishes the manners of men. It unites them, by one of the strongest of all ties, the desire of supplying their mutual wants. It disposes them to peace, by establishing in every state an order of citizens bound by their interest to be the guardians of public tranquility. As soon as the commercial spirit gains…an ascendant in any society, we discover a new genius in its policy, its alliances, its wars, and its negotiations” – William Robertson (1721-1793)


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