A monopoly (from Greek μόνος, mónos, ’single, alone’ and πωλεῖν, pōleîn, ’to sell’) exists when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity.
A bilateral monopoly is a labor market with a union on the supply side and a monopsony on the demand side. Since both sides have monopoly power, the equilibrium level of employment will be lower than that for a competitive labor market, but the equilibrium wage could be higher or lower depending on which side negotiates better. The union favors a higher wage, while the monopsony favors a lower wage, but the outcome is indeterminate in the model.
Monopolistic competition refers to a market where many firms sell differentiated products. Differentiated products can arise from characteristics of the good or service, the location from which the firm sells the product, intangible aspects of the product, and perceptions of the product. The perceived demand curve for a monopolistically competitive firm is downward-sloping, which shows that it is a price maker and chooses a combination of price and quantity. However, the perceived demand curve for a monopolistic competitor is more elastic than the perceived demand curve for a monopolist, because the monopolistic competitor has direct competition, unlike the pure monopolist. A profit-maximizing monopolistic competitor will seek out the quantity where marginal revenue is equal to marginal cost. The monopolistic competitor will produce that level of output and charge the price that the firm’s demand curve indicates.
If the firms in a monopolistically competitive industry are earning economic profits, the industry will attract entry until profits are driven down to zero in the long run. If the firms in a monopolistically competitive industry are suffering economic losses, then the industry will experience exit of firms until economic losses are driven up to zero in the long run. A monopolistically competitive firm is not productively efficient because it does not produce at the minimum of its average cost curve. A monopolistically competitive firm is not allocatively efficient because it does not produce where P = MC, but instead produces where P > MC. Thus, a monopolistically competitive firm will tend to produce a lower quantity at a higher cost and to charge a higher price than a perfectly competitive firm. Monopolistically competitive industries do offer benefits to consumers in the form of greater variety and incentives for improved products and services. There is some controversy over whether a market-oriented economy generates too much variety.
Regulating natural monopolies
In the case of a natural monopoly, market competition will not work well and so, rather than allowing an unregulated monopoly to raise the price and reduce output, the government may wish to regulate price and/or output. Common examples of regulation are public utilities, regulated firms that often provide electricity and water service.
Cost-plus regulation refers to the government regulating a firm that sets the price that a firm can charge over a period of time by looking at the firm’s accounting costs and then adding a normal rate of profit. Price cap regulation refers to government regulation of a firm where the government sets a price level several years in advance. In this case, the firm can either earn high profits if it manages to produce at lower costs or sell a higher quantity than expected or suffer low profits or losses if costs are high or it sells less than expected.
- Principles of Economics 2e. OpenStax. Authors: Steven A. Greenlaw, David Shapiro. https://openstax.org/books/principles-economics-2e/pages/1-introduction