In the United States, decisions are made by individuals acting as participants within the market. The federal, state, and local governments, however, make laws protecting private property and regulating certain areas of business. Practiced in the United States today, capitalism would be best defined as an economic system in which individuals own the factors of production, but decide how to use them within legislated limits. Nearly identical to capitalism, the free enterprise system is another definition for the American economy. The free enterprise system emphasizes that individuals are free to own and control aspects of production, yet expands on the fact that government places legal restrictions on freedom of enterprise. Zoning regulations, child-labor laws, hazardous waste rules, and other regulations limit free enterprise to protect the anticipated entrepreneur and his or her surroundings. When such rules are established, freedom has is boundaries and is considered a privilege.
Consumers in a market economy have the advantage of being able to choose among products. Contrasting to freedom of enterprise, freedom of choice applies to only the buyers, not the sellers. Although buyers are free to make choices, the market has grown into an increasingly complex place. A consumers choice determines the success or failure of a good or service. The profit incentive is the desire to make a profit.
This motivates entrepreneurs to establish new businesses, expand existing ones, and change the kinds of goods and services produced. The government has intervened in various areas of the economy to protect buyers. From a simple requirement for companies to place warning labels on potentially dangerous products to regulating the prices that a company may charge, the government arbitrates in company dealings to help keep all consumers relatively satisfied and secure in their purchases.
One of the most important characteristics of capitalism and free enterprise is the right to private property. That is, property not owned by federal, state, or local governments, but rather held by a person or persons. The right to all property-land, business, automobiles, and whatever else the person can afford-aids in the production of wealth and prosperity for all. According to the Constitution, the government has no power to seize private property unless payment is given to the individual. What are called the rights of property are the rights to risk investment and acquire new ways of producing while learning the benefits and downfalls of ownership.
Among the economic goals of Americans are economic freedom, economic security, economic stability, and economic growth. To obtain these goals, individual opinions along with government decisions must fall into equilibrium. In order to have a well-functioning enterprise system, individuals are required to take on certain economic responsibilities. Such responsibilities include attempting to rise as a successful entrepreneur and obtaining the knowledge of possible government policies while analyzing the consequences of those policies. The United States illustrates the characteristics of a mixed economy by combining freedom of choice, the desire to make profit, and the right to property with government regulations.