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Collusion or competition?

When oligopoly firms in a certain market decide what quantity to produce and what price to charge, they face a temptation to act as if they were a monopoly. By acting together, oligopolistic firms can hold down industry output, charge a higher price, and divide up the profit among themselves. When firms act together in this way to reduce output and keep prices high, it is called collusion    . A group of firms that have a formal agreement to collude to produce the monopoly output and sell at the monopoly price is called a cartel    . See the following Clear It Up feature for a more in-depth analysis of the difference between the two.

Collusion versus cartels: how can i tell which is which?

In the United States, as well as many other countries, it is illegal for firms to collude since collusion is anti-competitive behavior, which is a violation of antitrust law. Both the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission have responsibilities for preventing collusion in the United States.

The problem of enforcement is finding hard evidence of collusion. Cartels are formal agreements to collude. Because cartel agreements provide evidence of collusion, they are rare in the United States. Instead, most collusion is tacit, where firms implicitly reach an understanding that competition is bad for profits.

The desire of businesses to avoid competing so that they can instead raise the prices that they charge and earn higher profits has been well understood by economists. Adam Smith wrote in Wealth of Nations in 1776: “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

Even when oligopolists recognize that they would benefit as a group by acting like a monopoly, each individual oligopoly faces a private temptation to produce just a slightly higher quantity and earn slightly higher profit—while still counting on the other oligopolists to hold down their production and keep prices high. If at least some oligopolists give in to this temptation and start producing more, then the market price will fall. Indeed, a small handful of oligopoly firms may end up competing so fiercely that they all end up earning zero economic profits—as if they were perfect competitors.

The prisoner’s dilemma

Because of the complexity of oligopoly, which is the result of mutual interdependence among firms, there is no single, generally-accepted theory of how oligopolies behave, in the same way that we have theories for all the other market structures. Instead, economists use game theory    , a branch of mathematics that analyzes situations in which players must make decisions and then receive payoffs based on what other players decide to do. Game theory has found widespread applications in the social sciences, as well as in business, law, and military strategy.

The prisoner’s dilemma    is a scenario in which the gains from cooperation are larger than the rewards from pursuing self-interest. It applies well to oligopoly. The story behind the prisoner’s dilemma goes like this:

Questions & Answers

what is monopoly
Peter Reply
what is taxation
Peter
why do monopoly make excess profit in both long run and short run
Adeola Reply
because monopoly have no competitor on the market and they are price makers,therefore,they can easily increase the princes and produce small quantity of goods but still consumers will still buy....
Kennedy
how to identify a perfect market graph
Adeola Reply
what is the effect of scarce resources on producers
Phindu Reply
what is economic
Charles Reply
what are the type of economic
Charles
macroeconomics,microeconomics,positive economics and negative economics
Gladys
what are the factors of production
Gladys
process of production
Mutia
Basically factors of production are four (4) namely: 1. Entrepreneur 2. Capital 3. Labour and; 4. Land but there has been a new argument to include an addition one to the the numbers to 5 which is "Technology"
Elisha
what is land as a factor of production
Gladys
what is Economic
Abu
economics is how individuals bussiness and governments make the best decisions to get what they want and how these choices interact in the market
Nandisha
Economics as a social science, which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means, which have alternative uses.
Yhaar
how will a country's population be equal to it's labour force
Hope Reply
what is the meaning of ppf
Obeng Reply
Production Possibility Frontier
Igbekele
What is Economic
Governor Reply
economic
Nwosu
Economics is the social science that deals with the unlimited human wants in the face of scarce (limited in supply) resources.
Azka
what is market
Gift Reply
marker is the interaction of buying and selling
David
market refers to the interaction of the processes of buying and selling of commodities between the buyer and the seller.
stephen
market is a place where two parties gather to facilitate exchange of goods and services.
Yhaar
what are some good sources of information to find trends in various Industries
James
how do on know that marketing is going on
Mutia
what is consumption
Raj
Using revenue
Prince
What is stock market
Prince
What are the marmet function
Odirile Reply
price elasticity of demand is the degree of responsiveness of a quantity demanded to the change in price of the commodity in question.
Gladys Reply
What does elasticity mean
Prince
Elasticity means change in demand with the change in price. It is elastic if the demand changes with the price change whereas it is inelastic if the demand is not affected due to change in price
Devesh
Okay
Olatunde
meaning
KP
okay
Binta
I have a question
Binta
what is the importance of learning economics?
Thelma Reply
it helps to make the correct choice
Gladys
it helps firm to produce products that will bring more profit
Gladys
the difference between needs and wants
londiwe Reply
needs are things that we basically can't live without wants are just luxury things
Thelma
needs are things without them we can't live but want are things without we can live
KP
what is education
KP
it's a process in which we give or receiving methodical instructions
Thelma
what is mixed economy
Amex
what is a deadweight loss? how monopoly creates a deadweight loss?
Ashraf Reply
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Lamine
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Cleaford
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Adeola
what is type of economic
taiwo 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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