Set of principles and techniques by which a society decides and organizes the ownership and allocation of economic resources. At one extreme, usually called a free-enterprise system, all resources are privately owned. This system, following Adam Smith, is based on the belief that the common good is maximized when all members of society are allowed to pursue their rational self-interest. At the other extreme, usually called a pure-communist system, all resources are publicly owned. This system, following Karl Marx and Vladimir Ilich Lenin, is based on the belief that public ownership of the means of production and government control of every aspect of the economy are necessary to minimize inequalities of wealth and achieve other agreed-upon social objectives. No nation exemplifies either extreme. As one moves from capitalism through socialism to communism, a greater share of a nation's productive resources is publicly owned and a greater reliance is placed on economic planning. Fascism, more a political than an economic system, is a hybrid; privately owned resources are combined into syndicates and placed at the disposal of a centrally planned state.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on economic system, visit Britannica.com.
Seen & Heard
What made you look up economic system? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.