profit, in economics, return on capital, also called earnings, minus the costs of maintaining land, labor, and capital. It is also known as net income. Economic theorists generally make a distinction between two types of profit: normal profit, in which the entrepreneur receives the minimal necessary amount to encourage him to open or stay in a particular business; and excess profit, that which exceeds normal profit. With the development of the corporation, profits are apportioned between dividends to the holders of stock, and investment and depreciation funds in the control of hired managers. Interest paid on loans is usually considered as separate from profit, and is therefore deducted from the net profit. Profit is often considered to be the major incentive for production in a capitalist economy, although with the decline of the entrepreneur and the rise of a salaried managerial class, it has tended to become less personal and more institutional in character. See also profit sharing.

See F. Knight, Risk, Uncertainty, and Profit (1921); M. Obrinsky, Profit Theory and Capitalism (1983); D. C. Mueller, Profits in the Long Run (1986); S.-Y. We Production, Entrepreneurship, and Profits (1988).

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