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By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Evaluate the appropriate competition policy for a natural monopoly
  • Interpret a graph of regulatory choices
  • Contrast cost-plus and price cap regulation

Most true monopolies today in the U.S. are regulated, natural monopolies. A natural monopoly poses a difficult challenge for competition policy, because the structure of costs and demand seems to make competition unlikely or costly. A natural monopoly    arises when average costs are declining over the range of production that satisfies market demand. This typically happens when fixed costs are large relative to variable costs. As a result, one firm is able to supply the total quantity demanded in the market at lower cost than two or more firms—so splitting up the natural monopoly would raise the average cost of production and force customers to pay more.

Public utilities, the companies that have traditionally provided water and electrical service across much of the United States, are leading examples of natural monopoly. It would make little sense to argue that a local water company should be broken up into several competing companies, each with its own separate set of pipes and water supplies. Installing four or five identical sets of pipes under a city, one for each water company, so that each household could choose its own water provider, would be terribly costly. The same argument applies to the idea of having many competing companies for delivering electricity to homes, each with its own set of wires. Before the advent of wireless phones, the argument also applied to the idea of many different phone companies, each with its own set of phone wires running through the neighborhood.

The choices in regulating a natural monopoly

So what then is the appropriate competition policy for a natural monopoly? [link] illustrates the case of natural monopoly, with a market demand curve that cuts through the downward-sloping portion of the average cost curve . Points A, B, C, and F illustrate four of the main choices for regulation. [link] outlines the regulatory choices for dealing with a natural monopoly.

Regulatory choices in dealing with natural monopoly

The graph represents a natural monopoly. The graph shows four points that represent the main choices for regulation, a downward-sloping average cost curve, and a downward-sloping market demand curve.
A natural monopoly will maximize profits by producing at the quantity where marginal revenue (MR) equals marginal costs (MC) and by then looking to the market demand curve to see what price to charge for this quantity. This monopoly will produce at point A, with a quantity of 4 and a price of 9.3. If antitrust regulators split this company exactly in half, then each half would produce at point B, with average costs of 9.75 and output of 2. The regulators might require the firm to produce where marginal cost crosses the market demand curve at point C. However, if the firm is required to produce at a quantity of 8 and sell at a price of 3.5, the firm will suffer from losses. The most likely choice is point F, where the firm is required to produce a quantity of 6 and charge a price of 6.5.
(*Total Revenue is given by multiplying price and quantity. However, some of the price values in this table have been rounded for ease of presentation.)
Regulatory choices in dealing with natural monopoly
Quantity Price Total Revenue * Marginal Revenue Total Cost Marginal Cost Average Cost
1 14.7 14.7 - 11.0 - 11.00
2 12.4 24.7 10.0 19.5 8.5 9.75
3 10.6 31.7 7.0 25.5 6.0 8.50
4 9.3 37.2 5.5 31.0 5.5 7.75
5 8.0 40.0 2.8 35.0 4.0 7.00
6 6.5 39.0 –1.0 39.0 4.0 6.50
7 5.0 35.0 –4.0 42.0 3.0 6.00
8 3.5 28.0 –7.0 45.5 3.5 5.70
9 2.0 18.0 –10.0 49.5 4.0 5.5

Questions & Answers

what is demand
Oforiwaa Reply
demand is the quantity of a good that consumers are willing and able to purchase at various prices during a given period of time.
what is opportunity cost
Aboubakar Reply
what is gini coefficient?
Khalipha Reply
Never heard of that!!!!
ive heard about it Actually i know it..
In that case, you have to help us.
Another name for Absolute cost advantage
fatimah Reply
what is the difference between demand and supply
Peter Reply
what is the national income
Kamara Reply
oils and resources
it is the sum of all incomes earned by factors of production usually a year
What's current account?
Che Reply
Demand refers to goods and services that the buyer is willing and able to buy at a price over a period of time
Can it be possible to have two level of comparative advantage in a country ?
Louise Reply
.no.its not possible
Why ?
I think no possible
No resources are scare for a country to have a comparative advantage and it discourages external trade
each country are meant to Specialize on 1 production activities
why do oligopoly increase on the elastic segment of the demand curve
Tintswalo Reply
what is all about production possibility curve
Nice Reply
help me about the assumption of possibility curve
-The quantity and quality of economic resources are fixed. -only two types of goods can be produce out of this resources (that is,producer and consumer goods). -Resources are fully utilised. -The resources are mobile. -The state of technology is constant.
What is utility
chisom Reply
it is the satisfaction derived from d consumption of goods and services
what is opportunity cost
what is the meaning of money and inflation
Tinuke Reply
Money can be define as anything acceptable as a medium of exchange and mean of payment
inflation is when everything seemed to cost so much less
Inflation is d persistent rise in level of goods and services in a country
Inflation is the persistent increase in d general price level of goods n services
what is a bar chart
Godwin Reply
what's economic
John Reply
Economics can be define as a study of how human beings make decisions in the face of scarcity it can also be define as using one wealth to make more wealth
Or in Nigerian way Economics is a science (social science) which studies human behavior as a relationship between Ends and Scarce which have alternative uses
Economics is the study of how human make decision in the face of scarcity
what is the meaning of imperfect market structure
Hoyindamolah Reply
the theroy of demand

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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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