Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy

By Thomas Sowell | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
The Role of Profits --
and Losses

People often refer to an enterprise system as a profit system. This is a great mistake. It is a profit and loss system, and the loss part, in my opinion, is more important than the profit part. The crucial difference is not in what ventures are undertaken. The crucial difference is in what ventures are continued and which ones are abandoned . . . The crucial requirement for maintaining growth and progress is that successful experiments be continued and unsuccessful experiments be terminated.

- Milton Friedman

While part of the efficiency of a price-coordinated economy comes from the fact that goods can simply "follow the money," without the producers really knowing just why people are buying one thing here and something else there and yet another thing during a different season. However, it is necessary for them to keep track not only of the money coming in from the customers, it is equally necessary to keep track of how much money is going out to those who supply raw materials, labor, parts, and other inputs. Keeping careful track of these numerous flows of money in and out can make the difference between profit and loss.

-73-

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Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Chapter I - What Is Economics? 1
  • Part I - Prices 5
  • Chapter 2 - The Role of Prices 7
  • Chapter 3 - Price Controls 21
  • Chapter 4 - An Overview 39
  • Part II - Industry and Commerce 57
  • Chapter 5 - The Rise and Fall of Businesses 59
  • Chapter 6 - The Role of Profits -- and Losses 73
  • Chapter 7 - Big Business and Government 89
  • Chapter 8 - An Overview 105
  • Part III - Work and Pay 125
  • Chapter 9 - Productivity and Pay 127
  • Chapter 10 - Controlled Labor Markets 149
  • Chapter 11 - An Overview 167
  • Part IV - Time and Risk 173
  • Chapter 12 - Investment and Speculation 175
  • Chapter 13 - Risks and Insurance 193
  • Chapter 14 - An Overview 207
  • Part V - The National Economy 213
  • Chapter 15 - National Output 215
  • Chapter 16 - Money and the Banking System 223
  • Chapter 17 - The Role of Government 237
  • Part VI - The International Economy 267
  • Chapter 19 - International Trade 269
  • Chapter 20 - International Transfers of Wealth 283
  • Chapter 21 - An Overview 297
  • Part VII - Popular Economic Fallacies 303
  • Chapter 22 - Non-Economic Values 305
  • Chapter 23 - Prices and Purchasing Power 315
  • Chapter 24 - Business and Labor 329
  • Chapter 25 - An Overview 343
  • Sources 347
  • Index 359
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