There is almost universal agreement that economies are becoming more complex every year and that an understanding of how an economy works is more important than ever before. For someone who is just beginning to study economics, the task indeed appears to be a difficult one. Economics is the study of the way in which mankind organizes itself to solve the basic problem of scarcity. All societies have more wants than resources, so that a system must be devised to allocate these resources between competing ends. In a very real sense, the complexity of the economy makes it difficult to decide exactly where to start. Simultaneously, production is taking place, goods and services are being allocated, and a great number of market participants are being motivated by a diverse set of goals. In addition, there is the complex financial system in which individuals, firms, and governments borrow and lend funds.

There are many forms of economic order, ranging from the mixed private enterprise system to partially or completely controlled economies. Regardless of their form, however, economic system is the system that a society uses for allocation and distribution of scarce resources. Private enterprise means that decisions about what and how much to produce are left to the discretion of owners and managers. In controlled economies such decisions are the responsibility of some governmental agency. There is, of course, no economy today that is completely free of governmental influence, nor is this condition necessarily undesirable. There are many beneficial services and protections available from government. The question then is a matter of degree. Irrespective of the form of economic order, it performs certain valuable functions in the life of organizations of all types.

In the 1500s there were few universities. Those that existed taught religion, Latin, Greek, philosophy, history, and mathematics. No economics. Then came the Enlightenment  (about 1700) in which reasoning replaced God as the explanation of why things were the way they were. Pre-Enlightenment thinkers  would answer the question, “Why am I poor?” with, “Because God wills it.” Enlightenment  scholars looked for a different explanation. “Because of the nature of land ownership” is one answer they found.