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Rating the Effectiveness of the Canadian and American Economic Systems

Design and complete a report card to assess the effectiveness of the Canadian and American economies in improving the quality of life of citizens.

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

Students assess the effectiveness of both the Canadian and the American economic systems in ensuring a good quality of life for the greatest number of citizens by designing and completing a report card on each of the economic systems.

Introduction to market and command economies
Suggest to students that in order to compare the mixed economies of Canada and the United States, it is helpful to first introduce the market and command, or planned, economies (see References). Inform students that they will be engaging in a simulation Jungle or Zoo: An Introduction to Market and Command/Planned Economies (Lesson Material). This simulation uses the metaphor of a jungle and a zoo as economic environments. After students examine these environments, the term jungle is replaced with market economy and zoo is replaced with command economy. This information provides an important step in defining a mixed economy.

Use graphic organizers to review economic concepts
Ask students to use a graphic organizer, such as a T-chart, to sort a list of economic concepts from both types of economies. Authorized student resources, reference materials or websites may be used as sources of information on economic concepts (see References). Concepts may include the following:

  • government regulation
  • private property
  • private enterprise
  • consumer choice
  • ownership of the means of production
  • collectivism.

Alternatively, or in addition, ask students to create a Venn diagram that would introduce the term "mixed economy."

For more information on Venn diagrams, see Venn Diagrams (Support Material).

Introduce the economic continuum  
Explain that a continuum is a theoretical line where objects can be placed and moved back and forth to show the relationships to each other and to the qualities at either extreme. In this case, the continuum is to show to what extent an economy is either more toward the left end—command economy (zoo), or the right end—market economy (jungle).

After students have identified the characteristics of these two economic systems, ask them to place the systems on an economic continuum as shown below.

Please note that no real economies exist at the extreme end as all economies are a mixture of both. Shown below are some synonyms and values attached to these two extremes.

Discussion will help clarify that these extremes are theoretical and that economies will shift left and right at different times, with different governments and different government policies.

Command/Planned Economy

Market Economy

Government intervention in economy

No government intervention in economy

Government regulation

Consumer choice and control

Emphasizes group needs

Emphasizes individual wants/needs



No private property

Private property

Public enterprise

Private enterprise

Government owns means of production

Individuals own means of production

After students have a broad understanding of the distinguishing features of the two types of economies, provide real-life examples from the world community or create fictional case studies of different countries and their economies. Place the case studies or examples on the continuum to show the range of economic systems between the command and market economy extremes.

For example, North Korea and Cuba would be close to the left end of the continuum, while the United States would be closer to the right. At this time, it is important to indicate that Canada and the United States are both mixed economies, but probably not at the same point on the continuum.

Use a chart to analyze the economic systems
Introduce the three basic economic questions:

  • What goods and services to produce?
  • How to produce the goods and services?
  • How to distribute the products and services?

These questions address the universal economic problem of scarcity. They are the essential questions leaders in every country must ask in deciding how to respond to the basic needs of their citizens.

Ask students to use a chart like the one below to make predictions on how each economic system will answer the three basic economic questions. After making predictions, students may fill in the chart by choosing words from the Word Bank list below the chart.

This discussion will lead to an awareness of how both the government and individuals will answer the basic question of scarcity. In doing so, students begin to explore the role of government, consumers, producers and other economic agents including labour unions.


What goods and services to produce?

How to produce the  goods and services?

How to distribute the products and services?

Command Economy




Market Economy




Mixed Economy




Word Bank: the government, the individual/corporation, both the individual and the government, government with input from the private sector, those who the government decides, those who can afford to pay.

Concept formation: Market and command economies
A concept formation activity will solidify student understanding of different types of economies. Provide groups of students with envelopes containing three headings—Market, Mixed, Command—and a set of cards with examples of different kinds of economies.

For example, in Toronto rent increases are regulated by law (command). In Alberta, the oil boom has led to a rapid rise in house prices in Fort McMurray (market), but Alberta will not introduce rent controls (market). Instead, Alberta will provide rental assistance (mixed). Alberta will regulate and fine industries that pollute with industries reporting the pollution (mixed).

Challenge students to make the best match between the statements and the related type of economy.

For more information, see Concept Attainment (Support Material).
Determining the position of Canada and the United States on the continuum
Discuss with students a variety of ways that the Canadian and American governments intervene in their respective economies including social programs and other areas, such as regulating interest rates, taxation, Crown corporations and industry regulation.

Ask students to compare the economic systems of Canada and the United States by using appropriate statistical evidence to determine where to best place each economy on the economic spectrum.

Students should look for evidence of the relative influence of the market and the government's intervention or regulation in economic decision making. Evidence can be gathered from the authorized student resources or other resources.

Point out to students that both Canada and the United States are examples of mixed economies but to varying degrees. 

Extension activity
You may wish to provide students with a short reading from an authorized student resource or other source that reviews changes in the Canadian and American economies since the end of the Second World War. Invite students to determine if Canada's position on the continuum has shifted over the last 30 to 40 years.

Assess the effectiveness of the Canadian and American economies
After students have placed the Canadian and American economies along the economic continuum, invite them to consider the effectiveness of the United States and Canadian economies in enhancing the quality of life of the citizens by designing and completing an economic report card. The question should address how well each country is capable of not only meeting the economic needs of its citizens in a mixed economy, but also how it can enhance the quality of life of its citizens.
Remind students that a high standard of living in a strong economy is not the same as a high quality of life. You may want to review with students factors that impact on quality of life. Some of the factors you might want students to consider could include:

  • nutritious food to eat
  • freedom to act on one's beliefs
  • access to education
  • family life
  • sense of hope
  • emotional security
  • freedom to practice one's chosen religion/spirituality.

To complete this report card, students will need to gather appropriate economic and quality of life statistics of the two countries (see References).

After students gather sufficient evidence to make a reasoned assessment, ask them to complete a report card for both the Canadian and American economies. The report card should include ratings and comments on the strengths of the economies in providing for quality of life, areas for improvement and suggested strategies for improvement.

Criteria for an effective report card include the following:

  • informative
  • accurate
  • clear
  • concise.

To structure and assess this activity, see Writing a Report Card (Support Material).

Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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