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December 12, 2018 

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UNLIMITED LIABILITY: A condition in which owners are personally held responsible for any and all debts created by a business. Proprietorships and partnerships are the two kinds of businesses in which owners have unlimited liability. The primary problem with unlimited liability is that it limits the size of a business and prevents it from taking advantage of large scale production.

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FOUR ESTATES:

A division of society based on the economic functions of consumption, production, regulation, and information that includes governments as the first estate, businesses as the second estate, consumers as the third estate, and journalists as the fourth estate.
The notion of dividing society into different "estates" has roots in 18th century France, in which clergy and religious leaders were considered the first estate, royalty and aristocracy were the second estate, and peasants, serfs, and the working class were viewed as the third estate. Inventive journalists extended this classification to include themselves as the fourth estate.

The modern estates retain the essence of this division with an update to the realities of the modern economy. Government leaders and politicians, rather than clergy, assume their position in the first estate. Business leaders, rather than royalty, take over rule of the second estate. Rank-and-file consumers and those in the working class make up the third estate. And journalists continue as the fourth estate.

First Estate

In past centuries, the first estate included religious leaders and clergy. In modern times, it includes politicians and government leaders who can exert a great deal of control over resources through the coercive powers of government. One historical function of the first estate is to protect the less powerful consumers, taxpayers, and workers of the third estate from the market control typically held by the business leaders of the second estate. It is not uncommon, however, for an unhealthy degree of cooperation between the first and second estates, which often ends up with the enslavement of the third estate (figuratively and literally). At times help is forthcoming from the watchdog journalist of the fourth estate--unless they too have been overtaken by the first two estates.

Second Estate

In past centuries, the second estate included kings, queens, dukes and others of the ruling elite. In modern times, this includes business leaders who have extensive ownership of and control over resources, especially capital, entrepreneurship, and land. The interests of the second estate are usually in direct conflict with the consumers and workers of the third estate. In that the second estate tends to have more economic and political clout, they also tend to get the upper hand in most conflicts. Help for consumers may come from the government leaders of the first estate or the watchdog journalists of the fourth estate. The wealth and power of the second estate invariably infiltrates the first and fourth estates, as well.

Third Estate

In past centuries, the third estate included the peasants, serfs, or slaves who performed the dirty deeds for the first two estates. In modern times, this is the workers, taxpayers, and consumers who have limited ownership of and control over resources--often little more than their own labor. The third estate, which forms the backbone of any modern economy, is usually at odds with the business leaders of the second estate. Help occasional comes from the government leaders of the first estate or the journalists of the fourth estate.

Fourth Estate

The journalist, reporters, and other media representatives of the fourth estate keep a watchful eye on the doings of the first and second estates and hopefully provide valuable information to the consumers, workers, and taxpayers of the third estate. However, in that news and journalism have become, along with other businesses, a mega-gadzillion dollar industry, many fourth estate watchdogs have become card-carrying members of the second estate (and some even the first estate). As such, some journalists are more concerned with protecting and promoting business and government interests than consumer interests.

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Recommended Citation:

FOUR ESTATES, AmosWEB Encyclonomic WEB*pedia, http://www.AmosWEB.com, AmosWEB LLC, 2000-2018. [Accessed: December 12, 2018].


Check Out These Related Terms...

     | first estate | second estate | third estate | fourth estate |


Or For A Little Background...

     | public sector | private sector |


And For Further Study...

     | government functions | ownership and control | distribution standards | economic system | economic goals | seven economic rules |


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