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What Is the Market Mechanism?

Jim B.
By Jim B.
Updated May 16, 2024
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The market mechanism is an economic term that refers to the manner in which consumers and producers ultimately determine the price of the goods that are produced. Producers will respond to how many goods are being purchased by consumers by setting the price, and consumers will then react to that price. This process is tied into the laws of supply and demand, and the market mechanism helps to provide an equilibrium point at which the price sustains both sides. Governments at times may try to affect the economic process to try and spur the market in a certain direction, thus interrupting the mechanism.

Economists are constantly trying to evaluate the buying and selling habits within a specific society. By studying these habits on a smaller scale, they feel that they can make assumptions about economic practices on a larger scale, such as the economy of an entire country. Some economists feel that the market sometimes need some outside stimulation for them to perform efficiently. Others feel that the market mechanism ultimately provides the most efficient model for a society's production and consumption.

As an example for how the market mechanism works, imagine that a company in the United States produces a batch of 20 widgets and decides on a price of $100 US Dollars (USD). Once the product goes on the market, only five are sold. The company responds by dropping the price to $50 USD, and the remaining 15 are sold quickly. In response, the company raises the price to $75 USD, and the sales then begin to mirror production levels.

In this case, the market mechanism decided that the price of $75 USD was the balancing point, or equilibrium, at which consumption and production come together. The company dropped prices to stimulate buying, and then raised prices once more production was encouraged. These forces work in balance with each other in what economists call the law of supply and demand. Free markets operate in this manner, with no outside stimulation.

At any time when outside economic stimulation is attempted, the market mechanism ceases to be the deciding factor in consumption, production, and price. On certain occasions, governments may try to intervene on free markets, perhaps by trade agreements, manipulating interest rates, or making laws pertaining to wages. Proponents of these measures feel that economies sometimes need some sort of outside stimulation to operate at their highest levels. By contrast, free market proponents believe that the market itself will achieve ultimate efficiency.

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