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4 The Traditional Economy

For thousands of years human societies had very simple economies. There were no shops, employers or traders and people lived without money. Today we call this kind of economy the traditional economy, and in some parts of Asia, South America and Africa this system still exists.

People who live in a traditional economy don’t have money because they don’t need it. They hunt animals, gather or grow food to live. There is almost no surplus in the traditional economy and there is almost no property. Families live in tribes. Men are usually hunters and farmers. Women usually look after children, cook and do other work at home. This division of labour between men and women is another characteristic of the traditional economy. Physical strength and knowledge of the environment are the tools for survival.

Like any other economic system, the traditional economy has its benefits and drawbacks. These are peaceful societies. People consume almost everything they produce and own practically nothing. People who live in traditional societies are among the poorest people in the world. People depend on nature to survive. They have no protection from environmental disasters like droughts and floods. They are always in danger of hunger and disease.

There are only a few examples of the traditional economy left on the planet. It can soon disappear forever. (1157)

  1. The Market Economy

Cities have a lot of street or local markets where people sell and buy food and goods, especially in autumn, after owners of private gardens have harvested their crops, like apples, cherries, potatoes or carrots. It’s a free market and it’s not controlled by a government.

The street market has features of the free market economy. Customers come to the market because they have a demand for things. Sellers supply customers with what they need and try to get the highest price for it. Supply and demand control what is on the market and how much it sells for.

The role of the company in the free market is to supply what people want. However, companies need an incentive. The incentive is profit.

Companies have to compete with each other for a share of the market. Competition is good for consumers because it helps to control prices and quality. Technology exists in a free market because producers need ways to reduce their costs. Technology is the use of tools and machines to do jobs in a better way. This helps companies produce more goods in less time and with less effort. The result: more profit.

Though many economies in the world are considered free or market economies, the governments have control over them. All governments set limits in order to control the economy. For this reason, a true market economy is only theoretical. Nevertheless, many of the features of the market economy exist in most societies today. (1194)