# Module 61 Introduction to Monopoly

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1 What you will learn in this Module: How a monopolist determines the profit-maximizing price and quantity How to determine whether a monopoly is earning a profit or a loss Module 61 Introduction to Monopoly In this module we turn to monopoly, the market structure at the opposite end of the spectrum from perfect competition. A monopolist s profit-maximizing decision is subtly different from that of a price-taking producer, but it has large implications for the output produced and the welfare created. We will see the crucial role that market demand plays in leading a monopolist to behave differently from a firm in a perfectly competitive industry. The Monopolist s Demand Curve and Marginal Revenue Recall the firm s optimal output rule: a profit-maximizing firm produces the quantity of output at which the marginal cost of producing the last unit of output equals marginal revenue the change in total revenue generated by the last unit of output. That is, MR = MC at the profit-maximizing quantity of output. Although the optimal output rule holds for all firms, decisions about price and the quantity of output differ between monopolies and perfectly competitive industries due to differences in the demand curves faced by monopolists and perfectly competitive firms. We have learned that even though the market demand curve always slopes downward, each of the firms that make up a perfectly competitive industry faces a horizontal, perfectly elastic demand curve, like D C in panel (a) of Figure Any attempt by an individual firm in a perfectly competitive industry to charge more than the going market price will cause the firm to lose all its sales. It can, however, sell as much as it likes at the market price. We saw that the marginal revenue of a perfectly competitive firm is simply the market price. As a result, the price-taking firm s optimal output rule is to produce the output level at which the marginal cost of the last unit produced is equal to the market price. A monopolist, in contrast, is the sole supplier of its good. So its demand curve is simply the market demand curve, which slopes downward, like D M in panel (b) of 68 section 11 Market Structures: Perfect Competition and Monopoly

2 figure 61.1 Price Market price (a) Demand Curve of an Individual Perfectly Competitive Producer Quantity Because an individual perfectly competitive producer cannot affect the market price of the good, it faces a horizontal demand curve D C, as shown in panel (a). A monopolist, on the other hand, can affect the price. Because it is the Comparing the Demand Curves of a Perfectly Competitive Producer and a Monopolist D C Price (b) Demand Curve of a Monopolist D M Quantity sole supplier in the industry, its demand curve is the market demand curve D M, as shown in panel (b). To sell more output, it must lower the price; by reducing output, it raises the price. Section 11 Market Structures: Perfect Competition and Monopoly Figure This downward slope creates a wedge between the price of the good and the marginal revenue of the good. Table 61.1 on the next page shows how this wedge develops. The first two columns of Table 61.1 show a hypothetical demand schedule for De Beers diamonds. For the sake of simplicity, we assume that all diamonds are exactly alike. And to make the arithmetic easy, we suppose that the number of diamonds sold is far smaller than is actually the case. For instance, at a price of \$5 per diamond, we assume that only 1 diamonds are sold. The demand curve implied by this schedule is shown in panel (a) of Figure 61.2 on page 611. The third column of Table 61.1 shows De Beers s total revenue from selling each quantity of diamonds the price per diamond multiplied by the number of diamonds sold. The last column shows marginal revenue, the change in total revenue from producing and selling another diamond. Clearly, after the 1st diamond, the marginal revenue a monopolist receives from selling one more unit is less than the price at which that unit is sold. For example, if De Beers sells 1 diamonds, the price at which the 1th diamond is sold is \$5. But the marginal revenue the change in total revenue in going from 9 to 1 diamonds is only \$5. Why is the marginal revenue from that 1th diamond less than the price? Because an increase in production by a monopolist has two opposing effects on revenue: A quantity effect. One more unit is sold, increasing total revenue by the price at which the unit is sold (in this case, +\$5). A price effect. In order to sell that last unit, the monopolist must cut the market price on all units sold. This decreases total revenue (in this case, by 9 \$5 = \$45). The quantity effect and the price effect are illustrated by the two shaded areas in panel (a) of Figure Increasing diamond sales from 9 to 1 means moving down the demand curve from A to B, reducing the price per diamond from \$55 to \$5. The green-shaded area represents the quantity effect: De Beers sells the 1th diamond at a price of \$5. This is offset, however, by the price effect, represented by the orange-shaded area. In order to module 61 Introduction to Monopoly 69

3 table 61.1 Demand, Total Revenue, and Marginal Revenue for the De Beers Diamond Monopoly Price of diamond P Quantity of diamonds demanded Q Total revenue TR = P Q Marginal revenue MR =ΔTR/ΔQ \$1, \$ 95 1,8 2,55 3,2 3,75 4,2 4,55 4,8 4,95 5, 4,95 4,8 4,55 4,2 3,75 3,2 2,55 1,8 95 \$ sell that 1th diamond, De Beers must reduce the price on all its diamonds from \$55 to \$5. So it loses 9 \$5 = \$45 in revenue, the orange-shaded area. So, as point C indicates, the total effect on revenue of selling one more diamond the marginal revenue derived from an increase in diamond sales from 9 to 1 is only \$5. Point C lies on the monopolist s marginal revenue curve, labeled MR in panel (a) of Figure 61.2 and taken from the last column of Table The crucial point about the monopolist s marginal revenue curve is that it is always below the demand curve. That s because of the price effect, which means that a monopolist s marginal revenue from selling an additional unit is always less than the price the monopolist receives for that unit. It is the price effect that creates the wedge between the monopolist s marginal revenue curve and the demand curve: in order to sell an additional diamond, De Beers must cut the market price on all units sold. In fact, this wedge exists for any firm that possesses market power, such as an oligopolist, except in the case of price discrimination as explained in Module 63. Having market 61 section 11 Market Structures: Perfect Competition and Monopoly

4 figure 61.2 A Monopolist s Demand, Total Revenue, and Marginal Revenue Curves Panel (a) shows the monopolist s demand and marginal revenue curves for diamonds from Table The marginal revenue curve lies below the demand curve. To see why, consider point A on the demand curve, where 9 diamonds are sold at \$55 each, generating total revenue of \$4,95. To sell a 1th diamond, the price on all 1 diamonds must be cut to \$5, as shown by point B. As a result, total revenue increases by the green area (the quantity effect: +\$5) but decreases by the orange area (the price effect: \$45). So the marginal revenue from the 1th diamond is \$5 (the difference between the green and orange areas), which is much lower than its price, \$5. Panel (b) shows the monopolist s total revenue curve for diamonds. As output goes from to 1 diamonds, total revenue increases. It reaches its maximum at 1 diamonds the level at which marginal revenue is equal to and declines thereafter. The quantity effect dominates the price effect when total revenue is rising; the price effect dominates the quantity effect when total revenue is falling. Price, marginal revenue of diamond \$1, Total revenue \$5, 4, 3, Price effect = \$45 (a) Demand and Marginal Revenue A Marginal revenue = \$5 Quantity effect dominates price effect. B C D 91 2 (b) Total Revenue Quantity effect = +\$5 MR Quantity of diamonds Price effect dominates quantity effect. Section 11 Market Structures: Perfect Competition and Monopoly 2, 1, TR 1 2 Quantity of diamonds power means that the firm faces a downward-sloping demand curve. As a result, there will always be a price effect from an increase in output for a firm with market power that charges every customer the same price. So for such a firm, the marginal revenue curve always lies below the demand curve. Take a moment to compare the monopolist s marginal revenue curve with the marginal revenue curve for a perfectly competitive firm, which has no market power. For such a firm there is no price effect from an increase in output: its marginal revenue curve is simply its horizontal demand curve. So for a perfectly competitive firm, market price and marginal revenue are always equal. module 61 Introduction to Monopoly 611

5 Corbis To emphasize how the quantity and price effects offset each other for a firm with market power, De Beers s total revenue curve is shown in panel (b) of Figure Notice that it is hill-shaped: as output rises from to 1 diamonds, total revenue increases. This reflects the fact that at low levels of output, the quantity effect is stronger than the price effect: as the monopolist sells more, it has to lower the price on only very few units, so the price effect is small. As output rises beyond 1 diamonds, total revenue actually falls. This reflects the fact that at high levels of output, the price effect is stronger than the quantity effect: as the monopolist sells more, it now has to lower the price on many units of output, making the price effect very large. Correspondingly, the marginal revenue curve lies below zero at output levels above 1 diamonds. For example, an increase in diamond production from 11 to 12 yields only \$4 for the 12th diamond, simultaneously reducing the revenue from diamonds 1 through 11 by \$55. As a result, the marginal revenue of the 12th diamond is \$15. The Monopolist s Profit-Maximizing Output and Price To complete the story of how a monopolist maximizes profit, we now bring in the monopolist s marginal cost. Let s assume that there is no fixed cost of production; we ll also assume that the marginal cost of producing an additional diamond is constant at \$2, no matter how many diamonds De Beers produces. Then marginal cost will always equal average total cost, and the marginal cost curve (and the average total cost curve) is a horizontal line at \$2, as shown in Figure figure 61.3 The Monopolist s Profit- Maximizing Output and Price This figure shows the demand, marginal revenue, and marginal cost curves. Marginal cost per diamond is constant at \$2, so the marginal cost curve is horizontal at \$2. According to the optimal output rule, the profit-maximizing quantity of output for the monopolist is at MR = MC, shown by point A, where the marginal cost and marginal revenue curves cross at an output of 8 diamonds. The price De Beers can charge per diamond is found by going to the point on the demand curve directly above point A, which is point B here a price of \$6 per diamond. It makes a profit of \$4 8 = \$3,2. A perfectly competitive industry produces the output level at which P = MC, given by point C, where the demand curve and marginal cost curves cross. So a competitive industry produces 16 diamonds, sells at a price of \$2, and makes zero profit. Price, cost, marginal revenue of diamond \$1, P M P C Monopoly profit B A C MC = ATC D Q M Monopolist s optimal point Perfectly competitive industry s optimal point MR Q C Quantity of diamonds 612 section 11 Market Structures: Perfect Competition and Monopoly

6 To maximize profit, the monopolist compares marginal cost with marginal revenue. If marginal revenue exceeds marginal cost, De Beers increases profit by producing more; if marginal revenue is less than marginal cost, De Beers increases profit by producing less. So the monopolist maximizes its profit by using the optimal output rule: (61-1) MR = MC at the monopolist s profit-maximizing quantity of output The monopolist s optimal point is shown in Figure At A, the marginal cost curve, MC, crosses the marginal revenue curve, MR. The corresponding output level, 8 diamonds, is the monopolist s profit-maximizing quantity of output, Q M. The price at which consumers demand 8 diamonds is \$6, so the monopolist s price, P M, is \$6 corresponding to point B. The average total cost of producing each diamond is \$2, so the monopolist earns a profit of \$6 \$2 = \$4 per diamond, and total profit is 8 \$4 = \$3,2, as indicated by the shaded area. Monopoly versus Perfect Competition When Cecil Rhodes consolidated many independent diamond producers into De Beers, he converted a perfectly competitive industry into a monopoly. We can now use our analysis to see the effects of such a consolidation. Let s look again at Figure 61.3 and ask how this same market would work if, instead of being a monopoly, the industry were perfectly competitive. We will continue to assume that there is no fixed cost and that marginal cost is constant, so average total cost and marginal cost are equal. If the diamond industry consists of many perfectly competitive firms, each of those producers takes the market price as given. That is, each producer acts as if its marginal revenue is equal to the market price. So each firm within the industry uses the pricetaking firm s optimal output rule: Section 11 Market Structures: Perfect Competition and Monopoly (61-2) P = MC at the perfectly competitive firm s profit-maximizing quantity of output. In Figure 61.3, this would correspond to producing at C, where the price per diamond, P C, is \$2, equal to the marginal cost of production. So the profit-maximizing output of an industry under perfect competition, Q C, is 16 diamonds. But does the perfectly competitive industry earn any profit at C? No: the price of \$2 is equal to the average total cost per diamond. So there is no economic profit for this industry when it produces at the perfectly competitive output level. We ve already seen that once the industry is consolidated into a monopoly, the result is very different. The monopolist s marginal revenue is influenced by the price effect, so that marginal revenue is less than the price. That is, (61-3) P > MR = MC at the monopolist s profit-maximizing quantity of output As we ve already seen, the monopolist produces less than the competitive industry 8 diamonds rather than 16. The price under monopoly is \$6, compared with only \$2 under perfect competition. The monopolist earns a positive profit, but the competitive industry does not. So, we can see that compared with a competitive industry, a monopolist does the following: produces a smaller quantity: Q M < Q C charges a higher price: P M > P C earns a profit module 61 Introduction to Monopoly 613

7 fyi Monopoly Behavior and the Price Elasticity of Demand A monopolist faces marginal revenue that is lower than the market price. But how much lower? The answer depends on the price elasticity of demand. Remember that the price elasticity of demand determines how total revenue from sales changes when the price changes. If the price elasticity is greater than 1 (demand is elastic), a fall in the price increases total revenue because the rise in the quantity demanded outweighs the lower price of each unit sold. If the price elasticity is less than 1 (demand is inelastic), a lower price reduces total revenue. When a monopolist increases output by one unit, it must reduce the market price in order to sell that unit. If the price elasticity of demand is less than 1, this will actually reduce revenue that is, marginal revenue will be negative. The monopolist can increase revenue by producing more only if the price elasticity of demand is greater than 1; the higher the elasticity, the closer the additional revenue is to the initial market price. What this tells us is that the difference between monopoly behavior and perfectly competitive behavior depends on the price elasticity of demand. A monopolist that faces highly elastic demand will behave almost like a firm in a perfectly competitive industry. For example, Amtrak has a monopoly on intercity passenger service in the Northeast Corridor, but it has very little ability to raise prices: potential train travelers will switch to cars and planes. In contrast, a monopolist that faces less elastic demand like most cable TV companies will behave very differently from a perfect competitor: it will charge much higher prices and restrict output more. KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images Monopoly: The General Picture Figure 61.3 involved specific numbers and assumed that marginal cost was constant, there was no fixed cost, and therefore, that the average total cost curve was a horizontal line. Figure 61.4 shows a more general picture of monopoly in action: D is the market demand curve; MR, the marginal revenue curve; MC, the marginal cost curve; and ATC, the average total cost curve. Here we return to the usual assumption that the marginal cost curve has a swoosh shape and the average total cost curve is U-shaped. figure 61.4 The Monopolist s Profit In this case, the marginal cost curve has a swoosh shape and the average total cost curve is U-shaped. The monopolist maximizes profit by producing the level of output at which MR = MC, given by point A, generating quantity Q M. It finds its monopoly price, P M, from the point on the demand curve directly above point A, point B here. The average total cost of Q M is shown by point C. Profit is given by the area of the shaded rectangle. Price, cost, marginal revenue P M Monopoly profit A D ATC M C B MC ATC MR Q M Quantity 614 section 11 Market Structures: Perfect Competition and Monopoly

8 Applying the optimal output rule, we see that the profit-maximizing level of output, identified as the quantity at which marginal revenue and marginal cost intersect (see point A), is Q M. The monopolist charges the highest price possible for this quantity, P M, found at the height of the demand curve at Q M (see point B). At the profit-maximizing level of output, the monopolist s average total cost is ATC M (see point C). Recalling how we calculated profit in Equation 59-1, profit is equal to the difference between total revenue and total cost. So we have (61-4) Profit = TR TC = (P M Q M ) (ATC M Q M ) = (P M ATC M ) Q M. Profit is equal to the area of the shaded rectangle in Figure 61.4, with a height of P M ATC M and a width of Q M. We learned that a perfectly competitive industry can have profits in the short run but not in the long run. In the short run, price can exceed average total cost, allowing a perfectly competitive firm to make a profit. But we also know that this cannot persist. In the long run, any profit in a perfectly competitive industry will be competed away as new firms enter the market. In contrast, while a monopoly can earn a profit or a loss in the short run, barriers to entry make it possible for a monopolist to make positive profits in the long run. Reprinted with special permission of King Feature Syndicate. Section 11 Market Structures: Perfect Competition and Monopoly Module 61 Solutions appear at the back of the book. Check Your Understanding AP Review 1. Use the accompanying total revenue schedule of Emerald, Inc., a monopoly producer of 1-carat emeralds, to calculate the items listed in parts a d. Then answer part e. Quantity of emeralds demanded Total revenue 1 \$ a. the demand schedule (Hint: the average revenue at each quantity indicates the price at which that quantity would be demanded.) b. the marginal revenue schedule c. the quantity effect component of marginal revenue at each output level d. the price effect component of marginal revenue at each output level e. What additional information is needed to determine Emerald, Inc. s profit-maximizing output? 2. Replicate Figure 61.3 and use your graph to show what happens to the following when the marginal cost of diamond production rises from \$2 to \$4. Use the information in Table 61.1 to identify specific numbers for prices and quantities on your graph. a. the marginal cost curve b. the profit-maximizing price and quantity c. the profit of the monopolist d. the quantity that would be produced if the diamond industry were perfectly competitive, and the associated profit module 61 Introduction to Monopoly 615

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