Perhaps the most widely quoted and influential definition is that of Burns and Mitchell (1946, p.l) who state that:
Business cycles are a type of fluctuation found in the aggregate economic activity of nations that organize their work mainly in business enterprises:
In a market economy, producers often spend large amounts to make sure that consumers—even very young children—know the names and logos of their products. This is because free-market consumers have freedom of choice, and they will often choose brand names they recognize. In this section, you’ll learn more about freedom of choice and the other major characteristics of a market economic system.
The U.S. economy consists of millions of buyers and sellers of goods and services. Think about all the economic activity near where you live. Even in a small town there are dozens of businesses, hundreds of workers, and thousands of items that could be purchased on any given day. You could not possibly keep track of all the decisions that affect the economy of a small town.
As you’ve learned, consumers demand products and services at the lowest possible prices. In contrast, suppliers like Microsoft exist to make a profit—hopefully, a big profit. As you read this section, you’ll learn about the law of supply and how it is geared toward making profits.
The possibility that the financial system might be a source of instability leading to crises was frequently discussed in pre-Keynesian business cycle literature, which is reviewed briefly in the next section. The main focus of the chapter is the revival of interest in the financial instability hypothesis (FIH) in the 1970s and 1980s.