1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Economy

ECONOMY, a word ranging in application from the careful thrift of an individual to the systematic arrangement of an organization. It is derived from the Gr. οἰκονομία, the management (νέμειν, to control) of an οἶκος or house, extended in meaning to the administration of a state. Of its original sense, the art or science of managing a household, the expression “domestic economy” survives, but the principal use in this sense is confined to the thrifty management of the financial resources of a household or of an individual. It is thus used as equivalent to “saving,” not only of money, but of time, labour or effort, and, generally, of the least expenditure of means to attain a required end. It is on the principle of “economy” that many phonetic changes occur in the development of languages, and, in aesthetics, the name has been applied to a principle or law that effects are pleasant in proportion to the smallness of the effort made, and of the means taken to produce the result. The phrase “economy of truth” is due to an invidious application of the use, in patristic theology, of the word οἰκονομία for the careful presentation of such doctrine as would be applicable to the hearer (see J. H. Newman, History of the Arians of the 4th Century). “Economy” is also used in theology in such expressions as “Mosaic” or “Christian economy” as a synonym of “dispensation,” for the administration of the world by God at particular times or for particular races. From the meaning of organization or administration of a house or state the word is applied more widely to the ordered arrangement of any organized body, and is equivalent almost to “system”; thus the “economy” of nature or of animal or plant life may be spoken of. The most common use, however, of the word is that of “political economy,” the science dealing with the production, distribution and consumption of wealth (see Economics).