据说美国经济混合，因为私营企业和政府都发挥着重要作用。实际上，美国经济史上一些最持久的辩论集中在公共和私营部门的相对作用上。美国的自由企业制度强调私有制。私营企业生产大部分商品和服务，全国经济总产值的近三分之二用于个人用途（其余三分之一由政府和企业购买）。事实上，消费者的角色是如此之大，以至于国家有时被描述为具有“消费经济”。这种对私人所有权的强调部分源于美国人对个人自由的看法。从创建国家开始，美国人就担心过度的政府权力，他们试图限制政府对个人的权力 – 包括其在经济领域的作用。此外，美国人普遍认为，以私人所有为特征的经济体可能比拥有大量政府所有权的经济体更有效率地运作。为什么？当经济力量不受约束时，美国人认为，供给和需求决定了商品和服务的价格。反过来，价格告诉企业生产什么;如果人们想要比经济生产更多的特定商品，那么商品的价格会上涨。这引起了新公司或其他公司的注意，这些公司感受到赚取利润的机会，开始生产更多这样的产品。另一方面，如果人们想要更少的商品，价格下降，竞争力较弱的生产商要么停业，要么开始生产不同的商品。这种系统被称为市场经济。相比之下，社会主义经济的特点是更多的政府所有权和中央计划。大多数美国人相信社会主义经济本身效率较低，因为依赖税收的政府远不如私营企业注意价格信号或感受市场力量所施加的纪律
The United States is said to have a mixed economy because privately owned businesses and government both play important roles. Indeed, some of the most enduring debates of American economic history focus on the relative roles of the public and private sectors. The American free enterprise system emphasizes private ownership. Private businesses produce most goods and services, and almost two-thirds of the nation’s total economic output goes to individuals for personal use (the remaining one-third is bought by government and business). The consumer role is so great, in fact, that the nation is sometimes characterized as having a “consumer economy.” This emphasis on private ownership arises, in part, from American beliefs about personal freedom. From the time the nation was created, Americans have feared excessive government power, and they have sought to limit government’s authority over individuals — including its role in the economic realm. In addition, Americans generally believe that an economy characterized by private ownership is likely to operate more efficiently than one with substantial government ownership. Why? When economic forces are unfettered, Americans believe, supply and demand determine the prices of goods and services. Prices, in turn, tell businesses what to produce; if people want more of a particular good than the economy is producing, the price of the good rises. That catches the attention of new or other companies that, sensing an opportunity to earn profits, start producing more of that good. On the other hand, if people want less of the good, prices fall and less competitive producers either go out of business or start producing different goods. Such a system is called a market economy. A socialist economy, in contrast, is characterized by more government ownership and central planning. Most Americans are convinced that socialist economies are inherently less efficient because the government, which relies on tax revenues, is far less likely than private businesses to heed price signals or to feel the discipline imposed by market forces.