Closed economy

Closed economy refers to an economic system that does not engage in international trade, meaning it does not import or export goods, services, or capital.
Updated: Jun 5, 2024

3 key takeaways

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  • A closed economy does not participate in international trade, relying solely on domestic production to meet its needs.
  • It focuses on self-sufficiency, where all goods and services consumed are produced within the country.
  • While purely theoretical in the modern world, the concept of a closed economy helps analyze the impact of trade and globalization on economic systems.

What is a closed economy?

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A closed economy is an economic system in which a country does not engage in any form of international trade. This means there are no imports or exports of goods and services, and the country must rely on its own resources to satisfy domestic demand. The concept is primarily theoretical, as virtually all modern economies participate in some degree of international trade.

Key characteristics of a closed economy:

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  • Self-Sufficiency: All goods and services are produced and consumed domestically.
  • No Foreign Trade: There are no imports or exports, and the economy is insulated from global market fluctuations.
  • Domestic Focus: Economic policies and activities are solely directed towards internal markets and resources.


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In theory, a country that produces all its food, energy, and manufactured goods domestically and does not import or export anything would be considered a closed economy. North Korea is often cited as the closest example of a closed economy, though it still engages in limited trade.

Importance of studying closed economies

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  • Economic Analysis: Provides a baseline for comparing the effects of international trade and globalization on an economy.
  • Policy Development: Helps policymakers understand the benefits and drawbacks of trade restrictions and protectionist policies.
  • Historical Context: Many historical economies operated as closed systems before the advent of modern globalization.

Advantages and disadvantages of a closed economy

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  • Economic Independence: Reduces dependency on foreign nations for goods, services, and capital.
  • Protection of Domestic Industries: Shields domestic industries from foreign competition, potentially fostering growth in local sectors.
  • Economic Stability: Insulates the economy from global market fluctuations and external economic shocks.


  • Limited Resources: Domestic resources may be insufficient to meet all the needs of the population, leading to shortages.
  • Lack of Competition: Reduced competition can lead to inefficiency, lower quality goods, and higher prices.
  • Stunted Growth: Limited access to international markets can restrict economic growth and innovation.

Real-world application

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While a completely closed economy is rare in the modern world, some countries adopt policies that lean towards economic self-sufficiency and minimal trade. For example:

  • North Korea: Practices extreme self-reliance with limited international trade, although it engages in some trade with China and other countries.
  • Cuba: Has historically maintained a high degree of economic isolation, particularly during the Cold War era, though it has gradually opened up in recent years.

Comparative Analysis:

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  • Open Economy: Engages in international trade, allowing for imports and exports, which can lead to greater economic growth, diversity of goods and services, and increased competition.
  • Mixed Economy: Combines elements of both closed and open economies, balancing self-sufficiency with strategic international trade.
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  • Open economy
  • Autarky
  • International trade
  • Protectionism
  • Globalization
  • Economic self-sufficiency

Understanding the concept of a closed economy provides valuable insights into the potential impacts of international trade on a nation’s economic health. While purely theoretical today, the idea helps in analyzing the importance of global economic integration and the benefits and challenges associated with it.

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