) A traditional economic system is-here's a shocker-shaped by tradition. The work that people do, the goods and services they provide, how they use and exchange resources… all tend to follow long-established patterns. These economic systems are not very dynamic-things don't change very much. Standards of living are static; individuals don't enjoy much financial or occupational mobility. But economic behaviors and relationships are predictable. You know what you are supposed to do, who you trade with, and what to expect from others.
In many traditional economies, community interests take precedence over the individual. Individuals may be expected to combine their efforts and share equally in the proceeds of their labor. In other traditional economies, some sort of private property is respected, but it is restrained by a strong set of obligations that individuals owe to their community.
Today you can find traditional economic systems at work among Australian aborigines and some isolated tribes in the Amazon. In the past, they could be found everywhere-in the feudal agrarian villages of medieval Europe, for example.
In a command economic system or planned economy, the government controls the economy. The state decides how to use and distribute resources. The government regulates prices and wages; it may even determine what sorts of work individuals do. Socialism is a type of command economic system. Historically, the government has assumed varying degrees of control over the economy in socialist countries. In some, only major industries have been subjected to government management; in others, the government has exercised far more extensive control over the economy.
The classic (failed) example of a command economy was the communist Soviet Union. The collapse of the communist bloc in the late 1980s led to the demise of many command economies around the world; Cuba continues to hold on to its planned economy even today.
In market economies, economic decisions are made by individuals. The unfettered interaction of individuals and companies in the marketplace determines how resources are allocated and goods are distributed. Individuals choose how to invest their personal resources-what training to pursue, what jobs to take, what goods or services to produce. And individuals decide what to consume. Within a pure market economy the government is entirely absent from economic affairs.
The United States in the late nineteenth century, at the height of the lassez-faire era, was about as close as we've seen to a pure market economy in modern practice.
A mixed economic system combines elements of the market and command economy. Many economic decisions are made in the market by individuals. But the government also plays a role in the allocation and distribution of resources.
The United States today, like most advanced nations, is a mixed economy. The eternal question for mixed economies is just what the right mix between the public and private sectors of the economy should be.