In Economics, what is a Price System?

Constance Simmons

A price system in economics serves the function of regulating the production and consumption of goods by determining their monetary or trade value. There are three different types of these systems in economics: free, mixed and fixed. Each of these is characterized by the amount of control that forces outside of the market have on prices and especially the factors of production, which include land, labor and capital.

In a free system, prices are set naturally by supply and demand in the economy with no outside interference.
In a free system, prices are set naturally by supply and demand in the economy with no outside interference.

All modern societies use price systems. They motivate both consumers and producers to make decisions. For example, in most cases, a consumer will choose the product that is the least expensive, and producers choose to produce only products that will make profit. The system informs both of these decisions without the producer and consumer having to communicate directly.

In a free system, prices are set naturally by supply and demand in the economy with no outside interference. The higher the demand for a product, the more incentive producers have to make it, but producers are also motivated to keep prices down to attract more consumers. This creates a situation in which both consumers and producers are motivated by price.

In free price systems, competition among producers allows for prices to stabilize themselves. These systems create capitalism, which is distinguished as a market in which individuals are allowed to control all the factors of production, with no government intervention. Profits are unlimited in free systems and are the primary motivation for producers.

In a fixed price system, the market is not left to its own devices; prices instead are controlled by forces outside of the economy. Fixed price systems occur in centrally planned economies where the government is in complete control of all of the factors of production. Supply and demand do not determine prices, rather the government planners decide what to produce, how much to produce and how much to charge. Although the government decides what to produce in this economy, it doesn’t change the needs of consumers, and this can result in scarcity of some items and a surplus of others. These systems are most common in countries that have communist or socialist governments.

Fixed and free price systems are both extremes, one having no regulation and the other completely controlled by the government. Most nations cannot exist with a price system that is purely fixed or purely free. A mixed price system is a combination of these extremes and produces an economy with both government regulation and free enterprise. Most modern economies have a price system that falls somewhere between a free and a fixed price system..

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Discussion Comments


Oasis11-I remember that. Also, we prices are really low like during the Black Friday specials there comes a shortage of those goods as well. Lower prices tend to attract more people to buy.


Latte31-In the United States, we have a capitalist system that allows the market to determine the price that people are willing to pay.

For example, in 2005 when the real estate market was very much in demand prices were soaring and annual property value increases of 20 to 25% in some locales was not unheard of.

The prices went up because people were willing to pay those prices. Now with the flood of foreclosures and excess inventory the downward pressure on the prices of homes has led prices to decline more than 50% from its peak in 2005.

Also, when prices go too high demand does go down and the prices eventually reach equilibrium.

For example, when gas prices in the United States reached a high of over $4.00 per gallon, many consumers bought fuel efficient cars and used public transportation more.

They also took fewer trips and carpooled when going to work. All of these behaviors led to an eventual drop in gasoline prices because demand was tapered off.


A one price system is what is found in a communist system where the factors of production are controlled.

An example is in the command economy that China has. In China, the government as well as the amount of production set the price.

Companies are able to make a small profit but it mainly comes from the sheer number of Chinese consuming goods and services.

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