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CHAPTER 15: Monopolistic Competition and Oligopoly
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The monopolistically competitive rm misallocates resources because it produces where P > MC (see Figure 15-1). In addition, it does not produce at the lowest point on its LAC curve as a perfect competitor does. However, these inef ciencies are usually not great because of the highly elastic demand faced by monopolistic competitors. In contrast to the perfect competitor, the monopolistic competitor engages in nonprice competition, which takes the form of advertising and product differentiation. Such tactics are intended to increase the rm s share of the market and shift its demand curve upward (to the right). However, they also increase the rm s costs and shift the rm s cost curves upward. While some advertising informs the consumer and product differentiation satis es the consumers desire for variety, both may be excessive and wasteful. While the oligopolist can make pro ts, break even, or incur losses in the short run, in the long run the rm will leave the industry rather than incur losses. Oligopolists underallocate resources and can earn long-run pro ts because of restricted entry. Usually they also engage in excessive advertising and product differentiation. However, ef ciency considerations may allow only a few rms in the industry, and oligopolists may use their pro ts for research and development.
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Monopolistic competitors and oligopolists are like monopolists in that they do not allocate resources as ef ciently as perfect competitors, as far as society is concerned.
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1. The monopoly power of a monopolistic competitor is limited by the availability of close substitutes. 2. A monopolistic competitor produces at the lowest point on its LAC curve.
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130 PRINCIPLES OF ECONOMICS
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3. Restricted entry is a characteristic of monopolistic competition. 4. In tacit collusion, oligopolists meet and decide on a price leader to follow in their pricing policies. 5. In the long run oligopolists can earn pro ts. Answers: 1. True; 2. False; 3. False; 4. False; 5. True
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Solved Problem 15.1 a. Why does a prospective monopolistic competitor nd it relatively easy to start production in the long run b. Why does the demand curve of a monopolistic competitor shift down when more rms start production c. Why is it dif cult or impossible to de ne the industry under monopolistic competition d. Why is there a cluster of prices rather than a single equilibrium price in this kind of industry Solution: a. A prospective monopolistic competitor usually nds it relatively easy to start production because very little capital and no great technical know-how are required to open a small gasoline station, grocery store, barber shop, etc. b. When more rms start producing a differentiated product, the demand curve of previously existing monopolistic competitors shifts down because each rm now has a smaller share of the market. c. Technically speaking, we cannot de ne the monopolistically competitive industry because each rm produces a somewhat different product. We simply cannot add together aspirins, Bufferins, Excedrins, etc. to get the market demand and supply curve because they are similar, but not identical, products. Thus, our graphical analysis must be con ned to the typical or representative rm. d. Slightly differentiated products also permit and cause slightly different prices. That is, even in long-run equilibrium, there will be a cluster of equilibrium prices, one for each differentiated product, rather than a single, industry-wide equilibrium price.
CHAPTER 15: Monopolistic Competition and Oligopoly
Solved Problem 15.2 a. What are some of the natural and arti cial barriers to entry into oligopolistic industries b. What are the possible harmful effects of oligopoly c. What are the possible bene cial effects of oligopoly Solution: a. The natural barriers to entry into oligopolistic industries like the automobile, aluminum, and steel industries are the smallness of the markets in relation to ef cient operation and the huge amounts of capital and specialized inputs required to start ef cient operation. Some arti cial barriers to entry are control over raw materials, patents, and government franchise. When entry is blocked or at least restricted, the rms in an oligopolistic industry can earn long-run pro ts. b. In the long run, oligopoly may lead to the following harmful effects: (1) P > MC and so there is an underallocation of the economy s resources to the rms in the oligopolistic industry; (2) the oligopolist usually does not produce at the lowest point on its LAC curve; and (3) when oligopolists produce a differentiated product, too much may be spent on advertising and model changes. c. For technological reasons, many products (such as automobiles, steel, etc.) cannot be produced under conditions of perfect competition (because their cost of production would be prohibitively high). In addition, oligopolists spend a great deal of their pro ts on research and development, and this may lead to faster technological advance and a higher standard of living than if the industry were organized along more competitive lines. Finally, some advertising is useful since it informs customers, and some product differentiation has the economic value of satisfying the different tastes of different consumers.
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