The Growth of the American Economy: An Introduction to the Economic History of the United States

By Robert G. Albion; Harold F. Williamson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 31
Business Organization and Management

Introduction

BUSINESS MANAGEMENT may be defined as the deciding upon and carrying out within a unit of business organization of policies designed to result in a maximum profit to the owners of the enterprise.1 This objective is achieved by utilizing the so-called factors of production: land, labor, and capital. The business may take the form of a corporation, partnership, or individual proprietorship, depending upon various factors such as taxes, publicity, the need for capital, or the desire for limited liability.

From a survey of the changing scene of American economic development from the War Between the States to the present, two conclusions can be drawn. First is the fact that throughout these years there have been alternate periods of "sellers' markets" and "buyers' markets." In some years the products of American business have been very easy to sell because of general prosperity and rising demand, while conversely there have been times when goods were difficult to get rid of at profitable prices. Naturally, these situations were reflected in the varying policies of business management. The second conclusion is that, despite these alternating trends, fundamental changes have been taking place in the economic, social, and political background of the American scene. German writers call these "structural changes" or "Strukturwandlungen"; they have had important repercussions upon the decisions of business management. One of the most important of the recent changes, for example, has been the steady trend since the 1860's toward greater and greater Government intervention in the affairs of business. Another is the decline in the rate of growth of the population in the United States. Reference will be made to these two types of changes as the discussion progresses.


Business Management and the War Between the States

Until recently it was fashionable to regard the War Between the States as the end of one era and the beginning of another in American

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1
There may, of course, be other goals in business besides maximum profits, such as prestige for owners or management, enlarged size, maximum employment, reputation of product, and so forth, but in most cases profits are certainly the main consideration.

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