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This situation, when economies of scale are large relative to the quantity demanded in the market, is called a natural monopoly. Natural monopolies often arise in industries where the marginal cost of adding an additional customer is very low, once the fixed costs of the overall system are in place. Once the main water pipes are laid through a neighborhood, the marginal cost of providing water service to another home is fairly low. Once electricity lines are installed through a neighborhood, the marginal cost of providing additional electrical service to one more home is very low. It would be costly and duplicative for a second water company to enter the market and invest in a whole second set of main water pipes, or for a second electricity company to enter the market and invest in a whole new set of electrical wires. These industries offer an example where, because of economies of scale, one producer can serve the entire market more efficiently than a number of smaller producers that would need to make duplicate physical capital investments.

A natural monopoly can also arise in smaller local markets for products that are difficult to transport. For example, cement production exhibits economies of scale, and the quantity of cement demanded in a local area may not be much larger than what a single plant can produce. Moreover, the costs of transporting cement over land are high, and so a cement plant in an area without access to water transportation may be a natural monopoly.

Control of a physical resource

Another type of natural monopoly occurs when a company has control of a scarce physical resource. In the U.S. economy, one historical example of this pattern occurred when ALCOA—the Aluminum Company of America—controlled most of the supply of bauxite, a key mineral used in making aluminum. Back in the 1930s, when ALCOA controlled most of the bauxite, other firms were simply unable to produce enough aluminum to compete.

As another example, the majority of global diamond production is controlled by DeBeers, a multi-national company that has mining and production operations in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Canada. It also has exploration activities on four continents, while directing a worldwide distribution network of rough cut diamonds. Though in recent years they have experienced growing competition, their impact on the rough diamond market is still considerable.

For some products, the government erects barriers to entry by prohibiting or limiting competition. Under U.S. law, no organization but the U.S. Postal Service is legally allowed to deliver first-class mail. Many states or cities have laws or regulations that allow households a choice of only one electric company, one water company, and one company to pick up the garbage. Most legal monopolies are considered utilities—products necessary for everyday life—that are socially beneficial to have. As a consequence, the government allows producers to become regulated monopolies, to insure that an appropriate amount of these products is provided to consumers. Additionally, legal monopolies are often subject to economies of scale, so it makes sense to allow only one provider.

Questions & Answers

what the word federal mean
Kabba Reply
Meaning of "movement along curve?
Lizabeth Reply
There is movement along curve whenever the 'price' is affected
Isha
its mean price is positively response as demand change and price is negatively reaponse as supply changes
Mudasir
its mean when quantity demanded of commodity changes due to a change in its price ,keeping other factors constant, it is know as change in quantity demanded.
Gyamfua
pleas wat the formula when calculating for equilibrium point
Irene
when there is increase in the price
sautil
when there is increase in demand, demand will decrease.
Shadrick
A movement along curve is a movement on the curve mainly caused by a change occured in both quantity demand and quantity supplied.
Aarohi
what is demand
Dennis Reply
unwilling to buy good quality at a particular price and a particular time
Musa
Demand is the willingness and ability to buy goods and services at different prices at a given time.
Aarohi
is production function different from psychological law of consumption?
Kshirodra Reply
why supply is not the same quantity supplied
emmanuel Reply
What is Elasticity?
Kamara
I don't even understand
Awuah
what is damand
Cletus
Elasticity is an economic concept used to measure the change in the aggregate quantity demand for a goods or service in relation to price movements of that goods and service.
Gyamfua
Demand is an economic principal referring of a consumers desire to purchase goods and service and willingness to pay a price for a specific goods or service.
Gyamfua
supply is not the same as quantity supplied, because when economic refer to supply, they mean the relationship between a range of price an the quantity supplied those price -are relationship that can be illustrated with a supply curve or supply schedule
Gyamfua
Is a science which study human behavior as a relationship between ends and scares means which have alternative uses
BOOMBA Reply
I dont think so
Mahmood
It is Economic growth and stability
Mahmood
How Economic recovery growth Planning
Mahmood Reply
Expatiate your question
Awuah
Yh
Berry
Are bonds the same as liabilities?
Anderson Reply
Demend create it own supply how?
Mahmood
what is way ofrece thinking
Mahmood
what is the Economic way thinkig?
Mahmood
what is gasoline
Deepak Reply
how to know which products demand
Deepak
in other words economic can be define as what?
Ojarigho Reply
what is the difference between economics activities and economics system
Joshua Reply
what is the difference between price elasticity of demand and income elasticity of demand
Ellen Reply
what is demand
Alpha Reply
What is demand
Musa
is a measure of responsiveness at which a consumer is willing and able to offer a particular product at a given period of time
Manu
what is consumer
chill Reply
what is economics?
Odei Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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