While there are many different variations of national economies, the two dominant economic coordination mechanisms are centrally planned and market based. Before you can analyze any national economy, you need to understand these two opposing viewpoints on how to run an economy. The key difference between the two is the amount of individual autonomy within the two systems.
Centrally Planned Economy
A pure planned economy has one person or group who controls what is produced; all businesses work together to produce goods and services that are planned and distributed by the government. These economies are also called command economies because everyone must follow specific guidelines set up by the controlling authority. The reason behind this type of planning is to make sure that everything needed is produced and that everyone's needs are fulfilled. Since most peoples' needs are provided for in a centrally planned economy, compensation is primarily morally based. Most assets are owned by the state.
Planned economies have several advantages. Ideally, there is no unemployment and needs never go unfulfilled. Because the government knows how much food, medicine, and other goods is needed, it can produce enough for all. But achieving these outcomes depends on the group that organizes production and distribution to accurately identify what the consumers will need, determine what it would take to meet those goals, and anticipate all possible situations. This means there are a lot of opportunities to make a mistake. Realistically, these systems tend to suffer from large inefficiencies and are overall not as successful as other types of economic systems.
Market Based Economy
A pure market economy, or capitalist system, is one perfectly free from external control. Individuals may decide what to produce, who to work for, and how to get the things they need. They are compensated with material goods for their work, and most assets are privately owned. This type of economy, though it may be chaotic at times, allows people to change along with the shifting market conditions to maximize their profits. Although they avoid many of the inadequacies of planned economies, market economies are not free of their own problems and downfalls. Perhaps the greatest problem is that business firms may refuse to produce goods that unprofitable for them. For instance, in 2000 there was a shortage of tetanus vaccine in the United States. Because it was expensive to make, most companies were unwilling to start production themselves, leaving only one firm struggling to keep up with demand. In a planned economy, this shortage would not happen because the government would boost production of the vaccine if it were needed.
Because there is no regulation to ensure equality and fairness, market economies may be burdened with unemployment and even those with jobs can never be certain that they will make enough to provide for all of their needs. Despite these and other problems, market economies come with many advantages, chief among which is speed. Because they do not need to wait for word from the government before changing their output, companies under market economies can quickly keep up with fluctuations in the economy, tending to be more efficient than regulated markets. Also, individuals have more freedom and opportunities to do the jobs they want and to profit by them.