National Economy

Economics has a long history of many differing theories and ideas. These economic theories and studies have influenced the economies of many different countries. This explanation of the national economy will take a trip down the history of economics to explain the national economy. Interested? Follow along!

National Economy National Economy

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Table of contents

    What is National Economy?

    A national economy is the production, distribution and trade, consumption of goods and services by different agents of a nation. The national economy in a global context is primarily about macroeconomics. But microeconomic principles do influence the behaviour of the macroeconomy.

    The main functions of a national economy are related to the production and consumption of goods and services. A national economy has goals and characteristics that allow it to function properly. However, these may be different from nation to nation. Let’s look at some of these goals and the general characteristics of a national economy.

    A national economy is the production, distribution and trade, consumption of goods and services by different agents of a nation.


    Goals and Characteristics of a National Economy

    Every country wants its economy to be successful. Thus, each nation has different goals that will ensure the success and stability of its national economy. Some goals an economy might have are:

    • Efficiency.
    • Equity.
    • Economic freedom.
    • Economic growth.
    • Full employment.
    • Price stability

    You can learn more about these goals in more detail by checking out these articles: Economic Growth, Inflation and Deflation, and Unemployment.

    In addition to goals, every economy has its own distinguishing features and characteristics.

    The US economy is known for being the largest economy in the world and for having an advanced technological services sector that plays a very important role. The UK’s economy is known for its diversity: financial services, construction, tourism, etc., all play a part in the UK’s economy. The Japanese economy is known for its manufacturing sector: it's often viewed as an economy that is ‘well into the future’.

    These distinguishing features could be based on the natural resources a country might have in abundance, like diamonds or gold. They could be based on what a country trades with other countries. They could also be based on the quality of their education systems or financial systems. Whatever it might be, each economy will have different characteristics.

    However, there are a few characteristics most national economies might have in common. Some of these include:

    • Open economy. This relates to an economy that is open to selling and buying goods and services in global markets. Essentially, the economy is open to free trade.

    Most countries have an open economy. Examples are the US, UK, France, Spain, and Norway.

    • Closed economy. This relates to an economy that is not open to selling and buying goods and services in global markets. They do not trade with any outside economy.

    Not many countries are closed economies because raw materials like oil play a huge role in the global economy. However, there are a few countries like North Korea that trade very little with other countries. This is mainly due to the numerous sanctions imposed on this country.

    • Free market economy. This refers to an economy where the prices and distribution of goods and services are determined by supply and demand with little government intervention.

    New Zealand, Singapore, and the US are examples of countries with a free market economy.

    • Command economy. This refers to an economy where the allocation of goods and services, the rule of law, and all economic activity is controlled by the government.

    The economies of North Korea and the former Soviet Union are examples of a command economy.

    • Mixed economy. This is an economy that mixes both free-market and command economy characteristics. It combines both aspects of capitalism and socialism.

    Germany, Iceland, Sweden, and France are a few examples of countries with mixed economies.

    History of the Modern Economy: Theories and Developments

    How did each of the countries in our previous examples decide to shape their national economy? Let's take a blast to the past!

    National economies before the eighteenth century weren’t classified and differentiated like we do today. Each country had their own system and methods of trade and other financial transfers. It wasn’t until the mid-eighteenth century that the father of economics, Adam Smith, expanded on the studies of French physiocrats, notably Quesnay and Mirabeau, to argue for the free market economy.

    In his famous book, The Wealth of Nations (1776), he argued that the invisible hand would create social and economic prosperity for all if there was little government interference.

    National Economy Adam Smith was fundamental in the development of national economies StudySmarterFigure 1. Portrait of Adam Smith, the Father of Economics. Scottish National Gallery, Wikimedia Commons.

    Keynesian Era

    Adam Smith's theories were dominant in economics for a long time, but they also had many critics. One of these critics was John Maynard Keynes.

    John Maynard Keynes was a British economist. He believed that free-market capitalism is unstable and strongly supported government intervention. He believed that the government is in a better position to bring about good economic performance than the market forces.

    In his book, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936), Keynes argued that by influencing aggregate demand by means of government policies, the UK could achieve full employment alongside optimal economic performance.

    He proposed these ideas during the Great Depression and he was met with criticism from the British government. At the time, the British economy was experiencing a period of serious economic downturn. The government had increased welfare spending but had also raised taxes.

    National Economy Keynes’ theories have been fundamental for many national economies StudySmarterFigure 2. Picture of Kaynes in 1933, Wikimedia Commons

    Keynes argued that this wouldn’t encourage consumption. Rather, he argued that if the government were to stimulate the economy, they needed to increase government spending and cut taxes, as this would lead to an increase in consumer demand and the overall economic activity in Britain.

    However, by the end of the 1940s, Keynesian economics became more popular and soon many nations adopted his ideology. The only significant parts of the world that had rejected Keynesian principles were the communist nations. Economic historians label the years from about 1951 to 1973 as the 'Age of Keynes'.

    The Free-Market Revolution

    Keynes' beliefs were later met with disagreements from some other economists, namely Fredrick von Hayek and Milton Friedman.

    Hayek was a firm believer in the free market and didn’t like socialism. His arguments were based on economic foundations, but he also used politics and ethics. For example, in his book The Constitution of Liberty (1960), Hayek argued that a free market system - that is protected with strong constitutions and laws, and well-defined and enforced property rights,- will allow individuals to pursue their own values and make the best use of their knowledge.

    Milton Friedman started his campaign against Keynesian theories in 1957 with his book A Theory of the Consumption Function. Keynes’ model supported short-term solutions, like tax breaks, to increase consumer spending. His idea was that the government can increase economic activity without trading off future tax revenues - essentially, the government was able to have its cake (high economic growth and activity) and eat it (maintain tax revenues).

    However, Friedman showed that individuals change their spending habits when real changes occur rather than temporary ones. Therefore, individuals and families would respond to changes like an income rise rather than a short term, temporary change like a stimulus check or a tax break.

    Friedman wasn’t just an economist, but also a statistician. His arguments often were based on analysing empirical data and evidence, something Keynes rarely did. Because of that, Friedman could show the holes in Keynes’ frameworks and assumptions with data.

    National Economy Milton Friedman: another important figure for national economies today StudySmarterFigure 3. Milton Friedman, Wikimedia Commons.

    Friedman’s economic theories, beliefs, and views were in direct opposition to Keynes’. They started another branch of economics: monetarist economics.

    The key difference between these theories is that monetarist economics involves the control of money in the economy, while Keynesian economics involves government spending. Monetarists believe that if the supply of money flowing into an economy is controlled, then the rest of the market can fix itself.

    Monetary economics studies the different theories of money and examines the effects of monetary systems and policies. You can learn more about this in our Money Market and Monetary Policy articles.

    Supply-Side Economics

    The debate between no government intervention and government intervention would continue throughout the years. By the time Ronald Reagan became president of the US in 1981, a new form of economics had arisen: supply-side economics.

    Supply-side economics, also known as Reaganomics, is the economic theory that suggests that tax cuts for the wealthy would result in increased savings and investment capacity for them that trickle down to the overall economy.

    The idea is that tax cuts for wealthy investors, entrepreneurs, etc. will provide them with a greater incentive to save and invest. Their investments will then ‘trickle down’ to the wider national economy and produce economic benefits for all. Reagan often said ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ to explain this theory.

    What to learn more about supply-side economics? StudySmarter has got you covered! Check out our Supply-Side Policies explanation.

    Present-Day Economics

    Today, there are many branches and competing views of economics: behavioural economics, neoclassical economics, Keynesian economics, Monetary economics, and the list goes on.

    Nation economies today, though don't need economic theories to account for resources, the allocation of goods, and services, for example, because they are already being accounted for in economic systems. Economic theory today is also much more mathematical and contains a lot of statistics and computational modelling than ever before.

    Structure of a National Economy

    StudySmarter has many explanations that will help you learn more about the national economy whether it's for personal interest or for your exams. Let's take a sneak peek at what you can expect.

    Aggregate Demand

    Aggregate demand is one fundamental concept in macroeconomics. It is essential for any economy. In our Aggregate Demand explanation, you will learn what it is and its components.

    Aggregate Demand Curve

    Our Aggregate Demand Curve will take your understanding of aggregate demand one step further. You will see how aggregate demand can be shown graphically and what factors will cause a movement along the curve or a shift of the curve (Look at Figures 4 and 5). You will also learn two important concepts: the multiplier effect and the accelerator theory.

    National Economy, Movement Along Aggregate Demand Curve StudySmarter OriginalFigure 4. Movement Along Aggregate Demand Curve, StudySmarter Originals

    National Economy Outward Shift of the Aggregate Demand Curve StudySmarter OriginalsFigure 5. Outward Shift of the Aggregate Demand Curve, StudySmarter Originals

    Aggregate Supply

    Aggregate supply is linked closely to aggregate demand. It is also another fundamental concept in macroeconomics. You will understand the difference between the short-run and long-run aggregate supply curves, how to draw them (Look at Figure 6), and the factors that determine aggregate supply.

    National Economy Short Run Aggregate Supply Curve StudySmarter OriginalsFigure 6. Short Run Aggregate Supply Curve, StudySmarter Originals

    Macroeconomic Equilibrium

    Our explanation of Macroeconomic Equilibrium will take what you have learned about aggregate demand and aggregate supply, and combine them.

    Circular Flow of Income

    Our Circular Flow of Income explanation will take a look at open and closed economies in more detail. You will look at four circular flow (look at Figure 7) models in depth and at the end, you will be able to determine what model describes your country's economy best.

    National Economy Two sector circular flow of income model StudySmarter OriginalsFigure 7. Two-sector circular flow of income model, StudySmarter Originals

    National Economy - Key Takeaways

    • The national economy refers to the production, distribution and trade, consumption of goods and services by different agents of a nation.
    • Every country wants its economy to be successful, so each nation would have different goals that will ensure the success and stability of its national economy.
    • Every economy has its own distinguishing features and characteristics.
    • Adam Smith is known as the father of economics. He believed that the invisible hand would create social and economic prosperity for all if there was little government interference.
    • John Maynard Keynes was a British economist, who believed that free-market capitalism is unstable and strongly supported government intervention.
    • Fredrick von Hayek and Milton Friedman opposed Keynesian economics and based their arguments on empirical data and evidence.
    Frequently Asked Questions about National Economy

    What is the national economy?

    The national economy refers to the production, distribution and trade, consumption of goods and services by different agents of a nation.

    What are national economy objectives?

    Each economy has four main objectives:

    1. Economic growth.
    2. Low and stable inflation.
    3. Low unemployment.
    4. Balanced balance of payments.


    Other objectives a national economy might have are:

    • Efficiency
    • Equity
    • Economic freedom.

    What is the importance of the national economy?

    The national economy is important because it gives economists, governments and individuals a gauge of each nation’s economic development. Understanding the national economy can help a nation when they experience an economic crisis/downturn and make the necessary adjustments to stimulate economic growth and economic activity.

    What are the factors that affect a nation's economy?

    There are many factors that affect a nation's economy. Some of these factors include:


    • Human resources

    • Physical capital

    • Natural resources

    • Technology

    • Education

    • Infrastructure

    • Level of investment

    What are the major elements of the national economy?

    The major elements of the national economy are: 

    • Territory/region

    • Population

    • Natural resources

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Name two types of aggregate supply.

    Which is the vertical aggregate supply curve?

    The businesses and the individuals are the two groups that interact in the diagram.

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    Team National Economy Teachers

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