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How Economic Systems Work

60 min

Guiding Questions

  • What are the characteristics of command and market economies?
  • How do constitutional principles promote economic growth in the United States?


  • Students will analyze primary source documents to identify the similarities and differences between command and market economies.

  • command economy
  • market economy
  • Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)
  • buyers
  • sellers
  • producers

Have students read the How Economic Systems Work Essay.

Explain to students that they are going to examine the economics-related parts of two historical documents: The 1936 Soviet Constitution and the United States Constitution. Have students divide into several small groups. Half of each group will read excerpts from the Soviet Constitution; the other half will read excerpts from the U.S. Constitution.

Distribute Handout A: Excerpts from the Constitution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (1936) to the groups reading the Soviet Constitution. Distribute Handout B: Economics-Related Clauses in the U.S. Constitution (1787) to the groups reading the excerpts from the U.S. Constitution. Students should read their respective excerpts and, working together, answer the “Questions to consider”. When they are finished, the two half groups should reassemble, explain their readings, and share their answers to the “Questions to consider”.

Distribute Handout C: Characteristics of Market and Command Economies Chart to each group. The group should collectively complete the chart. As a class, review the chart. Make sure to point out that there is a lack of economic clauses in the U.S. Constitution. The principles on which the document is based lead to civil and economic freedoms that promote economic growth.

Distribute Handout D: Characteristics of Command and Market Economies. Go over the handout as a class, and discuss the characteristics of both market and command economies. Either in class or as homework, have students write their answers to the final questions on Handout C. When they are completed, discuss students’ answers to the final questions.

Student Handouts

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Free Enterprise and Prosperity