What is a mixed economy?
A mixed economy is an economic system in which capitalism and socialism exist in the same economy. Both the government and private individuals own and control the means of production. Both the public and private sectors decide on economic issues relating to what to produce, how to produce, and the price they want to charge on commodities. There is a certain level of economic freedom especially in the use of capital. It also allows the government to interfere in economic activities to achieve social aims.
Mixed economic systems allow and maintain private ownership and control of properties. This private control is subject to government regulations. The government in some cases takes over or nationalizes those industries that produce public goods. The system does not block the private sector from pursuing profit but yet regulates the businesses. of the citizens. They create a central plan that guides. Though the public and private sectors work together, competition for limited resources exists between the two sectors. The priorities of the citizens determine the role of the government in this economic system. Most countries have mixed economies. The neoclassical theory states that mixed economies are not as efficient as pure capitalism (free markets).
Mixed economy examples
Modern economies mostly adopt the combination of more than two economic systems. Both the public and the private sectors work together though they are bound to compete with each other for the same limited resources. It is factual that mixed economies do not deprive private sectors and entities of seeking profit. The system only regulates business entities to maintain certain rules and regulations and also nationalize those industries producing public goods.
For example, the United States operates under a mixed economic system. While leaving ownership and control of means of production in the hands of private individuals, it includes some things like subsidies for the agricultural sector. The system also regulates manufacturing or production activities and also complete or partial ownership of some industries like courier services and national defense.
Nigeria is another example of a mixed economy where private individuals control means of production while the government places rules and regulations on existing firms. The government nationalizes some industries and also privatizes some other industries as well. In some cases, the government liaises with the owners of some industries to provide social services. Also, construction companies receive contracts from the government to carry out some constructions in the country.
Almost all modern and historical economies that we know have some aspects that combine different economic systems. This implies that capitalism and socialism are mostly theoretical.
Mixed economy countries
Mixed economy countries examples include Iceland, Sweden, France, United Kingdom, India, The United States, Russia, Nigeria,
How the mixed economy works
A mixed economy combines the features of both capitalism and socialism, it is an economy where private individuals are free to set up enterprises and make profits while the government regulates them. The forces of demand and supply in the market determine the prices of goods and services and the allocation of resources. The government regulates key industries. In a socialist economy, the government determines the production and sales of goods and services.
Both the private and the public sectors exist in a mixed economy and there exist some levels of economic freedom. This is to allow the private sector to decide how to use capital and also pursue profits. At the same time, the system allows the government to step into some industries and economic activities such as the provision of public goods and the collection of taxes. The government can provide social welfare for citizens.
In the above example, the United States adopts a mixed economic system and it is the private enterprise that dominates most of the industries in the economy. There is a certain extent of government intervention such as providing subsidies for the agricultural sector and financial regulations. The government regulates prices in a mixed economy.
The government spatially or totally owns key industries such as package delivery, national defense, and public transportation. Mixed economies are the most common all around the world, the system is very practical in our modern society. The system does not exist theoretically like pure capitalism and pure socialism.
Features of mixed economy
Control of the pricing system
It is not usual in a mixed economy for the government to frequently take action to improve the working of the pricing system. The government influences consumption and production through price regulation. For example, to reduce the consumption of alcohol, the government can decide to levy high taxes on it.
Private and public sectors
There are two sectors that exist in this economy, that is the private and the public sectors. The government owns some of the business enterprises while private individuals own the rest. The two separate bodies make economic decisions. They determine what to produce, how to produce, and for whom to produce. The two sectors determine how efficiently they will allocate resources for effective production. In other words, both the public and private sectors function actively. While some specific industries fall under the public sector, some others fall under the private sector.
While private individuals own private sector firms/industries and profit is their motive, the government owns and manages the industries in the public sector. To some extent, the public sector also has a profit motive but the primary motive is to promote social welfare.
Cooperative sector (joint sector)
Aside from the public and private sectors, another sector exists called the cooperative or joint sector. The primary aim of forming the joint sector is to give financial assistance to cooperative societies that involve in activities like warehousing, agriculture, trade, etc. Here, both government and private individuals jointly set up an organization through the contribution of necessary capital.
Freedom and control
Every individual has the freedom to engage in the production of goods and services, own properties, choose their occupations, and demand products and services of their choice. In the aspect of keeping a check on monopolistic practices and the discrimination of lower sectors, the government maintains some control. Maintaining order is vital to prevent abuse of monopolistic power which is usually common with the capitalist economy. The government observes strict control over the private sector and at the same time, there is complete economic freedom.
There is a central planning committee/authority in a mixed economy and this central plan is what the other sectors follow to achieve different goals and targets. This plan is not rigid but usually comes as a general guideline for the prosperity and growth of an economy of a nation. In other words, the structure of the economy is subject to the planning of the government, this means that this type of economic system is a planned economy.
One of the primary motives of a mixed economy is social welfare which aims at reducing the gap between the rich and the poor. In other words, the system aims at reducing and fighting wealth and income inequalities in society. This is to facilitate poverty and unemployment reduction as well as the improvement of social security, public healthcare, education, transportation, defense, and security, etc.
Advantages of mixed economy
Efficiency in resource allocation and distribution
The distribution of goods and services takes place where people need them the most. It allows the price to measure supply and demand. Competition between the public and private sectors exists and this will lead to greater efficiency in the allocation of resources. That is, firms allocate resources to areas of need in the private sector thereby meeting the needs of customers in a better way.
The most efficient producers enjoy the reward of turnover which is profits.
It encourages business innovation. The mixed economy makes it possible for enterprises to be more efficient in production thereby receiving higher profits as a reward. Firms get motivation towards allocating their resources to be more innovative and efficient in production. This in turn makes the customers receive the best value for the commodities they paid for. Healthy competition in the market provides firms with the incentives to be more creative and innovative. Through innovation, it becomes easier to meet the needs of customers at a cheaper rate, more efficiently, and effectively.
In a mixed economy, income and wealth inequalities reduce because of the presence of the public and the private sectors. The profits the public sector generates goes to the government. The government uses the resources to provide public goods thereby reducing inequality. Also, the government regulating the private sectors has a share in reducing such inequality.
A missed economic system is a planned economy, that is, the economic structure is subject to government planning. This plan is usually a general guide for the growth and development of the economy. The system carried out economic activities based on planning. It is an organized structure.
Because the economy is a planned economy, these planned and organized economic activities facilitate economic stability. Private ownership, as well as the existence of private firms, increases capital formation in an economy. This amounts to the motivation to be more creative, innovative, and do better. Because price mechanism is prevalent, resource allocation becomes more scientific and beneficial to the economy.
Such economies enjoy the advantages that accompany central economic planning. One advantage of it is that it enables the economy to grow rapidly and also in the right direction.
The production of goods and services takes place based on the desire of the consumers. This makes consumers sovereign in the mixed economy.
Freedom of enterprise, freedom of occupation, and profit motives are important characteristics of this economy. Also, competition exists between the public and the private sectors. All these things help to increase efficiency, creativity, innovation, and higher productivity. The system also protects individual rights, everyone is free to buy commodities of his choice. That is the freedom to property ownership and choice of goods and services.
Under the mixed economy, the private and the public sectors work collectively for the welfare of the people. Because of this, social welfare is being promoted thereby bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. The system avails social security, healthcare, defense, education, etc. to the people in an economy.
The public sector is responsible for mitigating the disadvantages that accompany a capitalist economic system. The industries essential for social welfare that the private sector neglects due to low profitability the government intervenes. In these areas, government intervention provides support to key industries such as defense, education, etc., through ownership or subsidies.
For less competitive companies, the government takes care of them. Also, for disadvantaged individuals, the government steps in. One practical example is the tax which is an effective tool for reducing inequality. This usually happens by redistributing incomes. The government implements programs such as healthcare, retirees’ programs, etc., to improve social welfare. There are areas in which the private sector will be less effective because of the profit motive of setting up an enterprise.
Disadvantages of mixed economy
Lack of government support
When an economy experiences too much freedom, the less privileged set of people will not receive adequate support from the government. On the other hand, when government regulation becomes too much, private firms will not have that incentive to be efficient and innovative. Because of this, the mixed economy needs to strike a balance.
In a mixed economic system, large corporations tend to find ways to lobby the government. They may tend to devise means to influence the government rules to favor them. On the other hand, government intervention has a way of leading to moral hazards. Large enterprises (private) tend to take risks because they feel they are too large to fail. If they get into economic crises, the government may bail them out.
Though competition is advantageous because it motivates creativity and efficiency, unhealthy competition is inevitable. There usually exists unhealthy competition between the public and private sectors in this economic system. When this imbalance occurs, it is usually at the expense of social welfare. This is because there is a high level of corruption existing among both the government and individuals and this causes inequality to exist in society.
Less freedom for the private sector and inefficient public sector
Because of the government regulations on private enterprises through different mechanisms, the private sector experiences less freedom. The private sector usually experiences pressure from the government to meet up certain obligations.
The mixed economy tends to press towards government control. Government control seems to overshadow individual freedoms. Government regulation and control may be costly to companies, thereby putting them out of business. Unsuccessful regulations can keep features of production paralyzed and because of government involvement, efficiency hardly occurs.
Unemployment and uncertainties
Scarcity of capital, government regulation, and control may cause the private sector to be less than the fixed plan. This has a higher chance of causing unemployment and uncertainties in the economy.
Threat of nationalization
There is usually a threat of nationalization in a mixed economy when the private sector is not actively working. Though nationalization has its advantages, when the government is less effective, it becomes a disadvantage to the nationalized industry.
Mixed economy Vs Capitalism
Because the government is involved in economic planning, mixed economies are not completely free-market economies. The government exercises some control over the private sector businesses and gets involved in planning the use of some resources. When the government wants to redistribute wealth, they usually tax the private sector. When they tax private industries, they use those tax funds to promote social welfare. In a mixed economy, the government usually intervenes in areas like trade protection, tax credit targets, subsidies, public-private partnerships, etc. Though these can lead to economic distortions, they are meant to achieve certain goals in the economy. This is usually absent in the capitalist economy.
The reason why the government of a country usually interferes in markets is to promote target industries. Governments try to protect infant industries. This is not the case in a free market economy. This is because developing companies usually face difficulties in surviving in a highly competitive environment where there is no government regulation.
In summary, the major difference between capitalism and the mixed economy is the presence of government intervention and regulation in the mixed economy.
Mixed economy Vs Socialism
Socialism means public or centralized ownership and control of means of production. Socialists believe that a centrally planned economy can achieve greater social welfare for the people. Socialism does not trust the free-market economy with the task of achieving the goal of social welfare. Mixed economies on the other hand are not extreme to this extent. This is because, while there is freedom of enterprise, choices, and occupation, the government takes over key industries and regulates private enterprises. In other words, the government steps into areas in which the private sector is not effective.
In the socialist economy, the government owns and controls all means of production. Under the mixed economy, the government adopts certain measures in regulating the private sector such as price control, redistribution of income, and regulation on production and trade.
While everything (means of production) belongs to the government in a socialist economy, the government at some point nationalizes some key industries or public goods. When this nationalization takes place, it is because the government has considered such industries essential for social welfare and a free market will be ineffective in supplying these public goods adequately.
Mixed economies maintain private ownership of means of production while under socialism, it is not the case. Competition exists in the mixed economy due to private ownership of property, while there is no form of competition in a purely socialist system.
History and criticism of the mixed economy
After the second world war, the mixed economy became prominent in the United Kingdom. Though in the 1930s, many policies associated with the system were first proposed and most of the proposers were associated with the British Labor Party.
Some opponents (critics) argued that it was impossible for a middle ground to exist between central planning and the free enterprise economy. They stated that those who believe in the two concepts do not belong together. It is either capitalism exists or socialism exists.
The classical economists, as well as the Marxists, stated that either the law of value or the accumulation of capital drives the economy. Or cashless transactions are factors that drive the economy. The theorists believe that western economies primarily base on capitalism because of the continuous capital accumulation cycle.
Austrian economists argued that the mixed economy is not sustainable because of the unintentional consequences of the intervention of government in the economy. The first Austrian economist to come up with this argument is Ludwig Von Mises. They argued that the shortages that usually result from price control will constantly lead to further calls for increased government intervention to compensate for the effects. The theory proposes that a mixed economic system is unstable and will consistently move towards the direction of socialism with time.
Their theory states that mixed economic policies will unavoidably distort the flow of economic activities, trade, and income, diverting them from some individuals, firms, industries, and regions to others. The theory went further to state that aside from creating harmful distortions, it creates winners and losers. Also, they stated that some people are bound to divert some resources from productive activities to lobbying the government and devise other means of gaining influence for their own benefits.
How to create a mixed economy
A mixed economy comes into existence when the government intervenes by disrupting free markets. This usually happens when the government introduces government-owned entities. These include education systems, public health, subsidies, tax policies, and tariffs.
From the definition of a mixed economy, it is easier to understand how to create a mixed economy. By definition, a mixed economy is an economic system in which both capitalism and socialism exist in the same economy.
The mixed economic system combines both the elements or characteristics of capitalism and socialism. In this system, there exist freedom in the following areas;
- Private ownership of means of production.
- Taking part in managerial decisions.
- Commercial deals, transportation of commercial products, trade.
- Purchase of property for personal use, resale, formation of an organization, capital formation.
- Communication via the mass media.
- Peaceful protests.
- Laws that are friendly to profit objectives of the private sector.
- Legal assistance
In this economic system, the government provides social welfare, government-funded research, social security, environmental regulation, labor regulation, consumer protection and regulation, import and export regulation, taxes, compulsory insurance policies, etc. The existence of these elements in the same economy brings about the formation of a mixed economic system.
Frequently asked questions
What is a mixed economy example?
A mixed economy is simply an economic system in which capitalism and socialism exist in one economy. Both the government and private individuals own and control the means of production in the same economy. For example, the United States operates under a mixed economic system. While leaving ownership and control of means of production in the hands of private individuals, it includes some things like subsidies for the agricultural sector. The system also regulates manufacturing or production activities and also complete or partial ownership of some industries like courier services and national defense.
What are the benefits of a mixed economy?
The benefits of a mixed economy include efficient allocation and distribution of resources, social welfare and security, financial incentives, innovation and creativity, reduced income and wealth inequalities, systematic economic planning leading to economic stability, consumer sovereignty, and freedom of property ownership, choice, enterprise, and occupation.
What are the 3 characteristics of a mixed economic system?
The three major characteristics of a mixed economy are; the existence of private and public sectors, a cooperative sector, and government regulation of the private sector.