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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 scarcity.
Npoanlarb Reply
why our wants are limited
Npoanlarb Reply
nooo want is unlimited but resources are limited
Ruchi
and do to that there occurs scarcity and we have to make choice in order to have what we need if need be I will explain more
Madara
our wants are not limited but rather the resources
Moses
as we know that there are two principle of microeconomics scarcity of resources and they have alternative uses...
Ruchi
yes .....
Mathias
what is demand
Thank Reply
demand is something wt we called in economic theory of demand it simply means if price of product is increase then demand of product will decrease
Ruchi
inverse relationship between demand and price
Ruchi
in microeconomic
Ruchi
demand is what and how much you want and what's your need...
Shikhar
how can one be so with economics even while you have less knowledge in mathematics.
OKORO Reply
why is it that some products increases everyday by day
Chiamaka Reply
because demand is increase
Ruchi
because demand is increase
Patience
but how demand increases?
Aziz
Because of the Marketing and purchasing power of people.
AmarbirSingh
but how could we know that people's demands have increased everyday by day and how could we know that this is time to produced the products in the market. Is any connection among them
yaqoob
for normal good people demand remain the same if price of product will increase or not
Ruchi
see that some product which increases day by day is comes under normal good which is used by consumer
Ruchi
Seems hot discussing going here
Shamamet
If there are less products demand starts to increase for those products
Shamamet
Economics is really interesting to learn ....
Shamamet
see there is Inferior goods ands normal goods inferior good demand is rarely increase whereas as we talk about normal good demand will absolutely Increase whether price is increase or not
Ruchi
and demand for normal goods increase cause people's income as a while increases time to time
Abhisek
and it might also be that the cost of raw materials are high.
ATTAH
may be
Ruchi
obviously because demand is increasing.....and price is getting low.....
Shikhar
hmmm there is inverse relationship between demand and price
Ruchi
Importance of economics
Odunayomi Reply
the nature and significance of economics studies
Deborah
What is demand
Shuaib Reply
deman is amount of goods and services a consumer is willing and able to buy or purchase at a given price.
Sainabou
the willingness and ability of a body to purchase goods nd servicesbis called demand ,so if she/has ability but doesn't have willingness it's not a demand same if she or he has willingness but doesn't has ability it's not a demand too
Gul
Demand refers to as quantities of a goods and services in which consumers are willing and able to purchase at a given period of time and demand can also be defined as the desire or willingness and backed by the ability to pay.
Fadiga
Yeah
Mathias
What is Choice
Kofi
Choice refers to the ability of a consumer or producer to decide which good, service or resource to purchase or provide from a range of possible options. Being free to chose is regarded as a fundamental indicator of economic well being and development.
Shonal
choice is a act of selecting or choosing from the numerous or plenty wants.
Fadiga
how does consumer make profit
Clifford Reply
Compare and contract the function of commercial bank and the central bank of Nigeria
Akwi Reply
what do think is the difference between overhead costs and prime cost
Abdoulkarim
what is economics
Mohamed Reply
economics is a social science that study's how resources can be used to produce goods and services for society
Nathan
Economic is a science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scares means which have alternatives uses or purposes.
Fadiga
what is economics
Mohamed Reply
what is the basic economic problem
John Reply
rules
Buayadarat_Gaming
unlimited wants vs limited resources
Nathan
what economics is all about?
Nomuhle Reply
what is a new paradigm shift
Austen Reply
Paradigm shift it is the reconcilliation of fedural goods in production
Shyline
fedural? what is that?
Aziz
factors that affecting economic system
Bemen Reply
crux
Shyline

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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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