Monopolistic competition and economic efficiency (Монополистическая конкуренция и экономическая)
ICEF, 2nd year, 2nd group.
Tutor: Natalya Frolova.
ESSAY ON MICROECONOMICS:
Monopolistic competition and economic efficiency.
Международный институт экономики и финансов, 2 курс,
Высшая школа экономики.
Year 2000, March.
One of the most important and basic economic issues is the theory of
Market Structure. The meaning of economics as a science is the description
and explanation of different ways of economic agencies’ interactions
through commodities, services, mediums of exchange like money, production
processes and other in order to increase their wellbeing in a materialistic
part of life. The satisfaction, although only partial, of either economic
agency could not be achieved while acting without knowing something about
the market, on which it operates. One can not predict or expect either
producers’ or consumers’ behaviour without knowing general profit and
utility maximising notions and conditions. The structure of a market
provides this information.
The theory of Market Structure divides the markets into four most
distinctive types. The polar ones are the pure competition and pure
monopoly. Between these extreme case lie two imperfectly competitive market
structures: monopolistic competition (the one, which is closer to perfect
or pure competition, and which would be described in this essay) and
oligopoly (closer to monopoly, but has more than one but not many large
operating firms, lower monopolistic power and other distinctive features).
The markets, which combine both the price making of a monopoly with a
large number of suppliers and free- entry conditions of pure competition
are the most popular and wide spread ones. Among these are almost all
retail stores like record shops and clothing shops, food facilities like
restaurants and fast-food enterprises, producers of non-alcoholic beverages
like Coca-Cola or Pepsi and a great variety of others. Because such markets
combine the features of monopoly and competition, they are called
monopolistically competitive. This model is also very interesting and
important tool for analysing such issues as product variety and product
choice. It helps us understand whether the market system leads to the
production of the “right” assortment of goods and services as it is too
expensive to produce all conceivable commodities and there is always a
problem of choice.
There are several characteristic assumptions, which identifies the
1. Sellers are price makers. The reason for this is that unlike in
perfect competition where the product is identical, there is a
slightly differentiated or heterogeneous product. Even if some firm
has a monopolistic right on its trade mark and other firms are not
allowed to produce the identical commodity, they have the opportunity
to produce similar, but slightly different product and compete with it
on the market. The greater is the difference of the firm’s product
from other one’s (can be based even on location), the greater is the
monopolistic power of that firm and the less elastic is the demand
curve for its output. This feature enables it to charge a slightly
different price relative to its competitors without loosing all its
customers. Product differentiation leads to the potentiality for a
firm to affect the price for the good or service it produces. Although
this ability is very limited and depends on the degree of
differentiation, a monopolistically competitive firm faces the
downward sloping demand curve like a monopoly or oligopoly (this is
the main characteristic of every imperfect competition market).
Product differentiation makes this model different from pure competition
model. Economic rivalry takes the form of non-price competition:
1. Product differentiation may be physical (qualitative).
2. Services and conditions accompanying the sale of the product are
important aspects of product differentiation.
3. Location is another type of differentiation.
4. Brand names, advertising and packaging lead to perceived differences.
5. Product differentiation allows producers to have some control over the
prices of their products.
2. Sellers do not behave strategically. As there is a large (like in
perfect competition) number of small firms, we assume, that each of
them does not have a noticeable effect on the price decision of other
producers, while changing the price for its output. Thus, firms do not
take into consideration the expectation of a reaction of their
competitors to their price and output decision. Buyers & sellers are
3. All participants have perfect information.
4. No entry barriers on the market. Neither technological nor legal
barriers to entry exist. This feature is similar to the perfect
Firm's goal is to take the pure competition’s demand curve and shift it
in the direction of the monopolist’s demand curve. It does this through
price discrimination. Let us now discuss the profit maximising conditions
and the appropriate price-output decision in the short and long runs.
Profit Maximisation in Monopolistic Competition:
. In SR, firm sets its output quantity where MR = MC and sets price
higher than the perfect competition firm would do and equal to the
demand for this quantity of production.
. If P > ATC at that output, firm earns abnormal or positive economic
profit. (Only possible in SR).
. Existing firms expand the scale of plant in response to SR profits.
In the LR, new firms attracted by the SR profits enter the industry.
Short-run price and output decision (no new entrants):
As any profit- maximising firm,
Monopolistic competitor (when it does not choose to shut down) produces the
output where MC=MR and the result would be economic profit (ABCD, grey
As it was mentioned earlier, the entry on the market is absolutely free
and definitely new firms’ occurrence affects the demand for the particular
firm’s output. First, the share and thus the profit of each firm in the
market decrease with the increasing number of competitors producing the
similar, but non-identical commodities. The demand curve for the firms’
production shifts to the left and at an each price, a seller would be able
to realise less items of its output. Second, as the quantity of similar
goods’ producers increases the elasticity of a demand curve for a single
firm’s product increases. Thus, demand curve becomes flatter with the
growing quantity of close substitutes. This situation is described on the
Long-run price and output decision:
New entrants, attracted by abnormal profit, lead to the decrease of each
particular firm’s production by decreasing the demand for it and converge
its profits to zero in LR.
Process of new firms entering the market continues until the average
firm has demand tangent to the LR average cost curve (point B- the point
where it can only break even). At this point the average total costs (ATC)
are equal to average revenue (AR/demand curve), therefore in the long- run
monopolistically competitive firms usually face only normal or zero
economic profit as in perfect competition. But there is a complicating
factor involved with this analysis: some firms might achieve a measure of
differentiation that is not easily duplicated by rivals (patents, location,
etc.) and can realise economic profits even in the long run, but this is a
rather unusual situation.
Now, it is the very time to speak about the monopolistic competition
from the point of view of economic efficiency.
The main issue in welfare economics, which describes not how the economy
works, but how well it works, is the term of economic or Pareto-
efficiency. By definition, “the allocation is Pareto- efficient for a given
set of consumer tastes, resources, and technology, if it is impossible to
move to another allocation, which would make some people better off and
nobody worse off”. To realise the meaning of economic efficiency we must
also recall the definitions of allocative and productive efficiencies:
1. Allocative efficiency occurs when price = marginal cost (P=MC), where
the right amount of resources are allocated to the product.
2. Productive efficiency occurs when price = average total cost (P= ATC),
where production occurs using the least-cost combination of resources.
The monopolistically competitive firm is not allocatively efficient
(misallocate resources as P > MC), but is a productively efficient market
structure (P = ATC) as it maximizes profits and minimizes its costs.
As we see on this graph: 1. Price a firm charges its customers exceeds the
marginal cost in the long- run, suggesting that society values additional
units of output which are not being produced.
2. Firm produces the minimum cost level of output as P = ATC (average-total-
cost level of output).
There is an obvious difference between the point where MC=MR and the
price of a monopolistic competitor (on the graph it is marked as a line
from A to B)- its is called a mark up. And the greater is this mark up, the
greater is the monopolistic power of a firm. Because the demand curve is
still downward sloping, the firm will not reach the long run equilibrium at
the minimum point of the ATC curve. Average costs may also be higher than
under pure competition, due to advertising and other costs involved in
differentiation. If there were fewer firms in industry, each firm could
produce the more effective scale of output, which would be better for
consumers. This excess capacity is the "price" society must pay for product
differentiation. In other words, the price differential paid by the
consumer (price difference between perfect competition and monopolistic
competition) is the "price" of product differentiation. But of course
monopolistic competition provides us many good opportunities important for
our wellbeing: the lure of economic profits causes firms to develop new or
improve their old products in order to compete for customers with other
producers of similar but not identical goods and services.