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.


Among the functions of the economic order the most important one is to provide some means of resource allocation. In a private enterprise this function is basically performed by the price mechanism. This simply means that demand for and supply of goods and services interact to set their market price. In the case of regulated utilities, there are governmental agencies such as public service commissions that determine the rates that may be charged by utility companies. These rates are set at the level that will allow a fair return on investments made by the companies. This form of regulated monopoly is considered, on balance, preferable to unchecked competition. This is true because of efficiency reasons. In taking actions in the area of employment, government is attempting to control the economy in such a fashion as to help the business community operate at the level of production that will yield full employment.


Without a system of distribution economy simply could not exist. A major part of this distribution system is credit. Economy flourishes on credit or extended methods of payment. Such a system literally affects every link in the distribution chain from the supplier of raw materials to the ultimate consumer. Without this vital financing function being performed, the economy would doubtless be forced to a lower order of production.


Economic goals for a nation include price stability, full employment, economic growth, and equitable distribution of income. Price stability contributes to the efficient allocation of resources and facilitates long-term planning. Full employment means that jobs are available for those seeking work. Higher standards of living require increased output per person (economic growth per capita). An equitable distribution of income means that the fruits of the economy are divided in a way that seems fair to the majority of the people. With the long-run trend toward a more sophisticated, highly integrated economic system, it is becoming increasingly important for an individual decision maker to be aware of the macroeconomic environment.