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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 Economics
Kwame Reply
Economic is the study of scarcity
Kolade
Economics is the study of a lot of things. It is split up into two areas of study, Microeconomics and Macroeconomics. Microeconomics is the study of an individual's choices in the economy and Macroeconomics is the study of the economy as a whole.
The
Economics is a science that studies human scarcity
Agnes
What is Equilibrium price?
Agnes
Equilibrium is the market clearing price. The point at which quantity demanded equals quantity supplied. The point at which the supply and demand curves intersect.
The
Equilibrium price*
The
why is economics important
Derrick Reply
What will you do as a consumer if you are not at equilibrium?
chukwu Reply
am new I will like to know about the graph relationship
Gloria Reply
comment on WTO principle on trading system. trade without discrimination
Omben Reply
optimize z=f(x,y)=6x²-9x-3xy-7y+5y²
Alex Reply
What is an indifference curve?
layla Reply
different levels of utilities of a person in a given set of bundles of goods
RAM
identify and quantify five social costs and social benefits of building a school
Mokgobo Reply
identify and quantity five social costs and social benefits of building a hospital
Mokgobo
short run vs long run
Jean
state the law of diminishing return?
Ibrahim
The Law of Diminishing (Marginal) Returns simply states that at some point in time a business/operation/etc.'s increased productivity will begin to decline.
The
For example, if a small pizza shop currently has 3 workers in the kitchen at any given time,and hiring 1 more worker will increase productivity, at some number of workers hired will the business see a decrease in productivity because the capital resources that the pizza shop has is not infinite.
The
Five social benefits of building a hospital, in my opinion and depending on where it's built, would be 1) Increased care for neighboring residents, 2) Potential jobs for individuals, 3) May decrease the travel time residents need to endure in order to reach the nearest hospital
The
4) May create work-study programs for individuals who aspire to be future Doctors, Nurses, Physicians, etc. 5) Assuming there are local pharmaceutical businesses nearby, the hospital may decide to purchase supplies local, increasing the business' sales. Thus, generating more income.
The
5 costs of building a hospital would be 1) Increased noise and waste pollution from service vehicles and hospital visitors, 2) May require large amounts of space, possibly jeopardizing nearby animal habitats, 3) May see an increase in traffic and possibly car accidents from frantic individuals
The
racing to see their injured friends, family members, etc. 4) Constructing a hospital and hiring staff is very expensive 5) To use funds, private or public, to finance the construction of a hospital cannot be used to fund any other projects. (The concept of opportunity costs.)
The
what is meant by inteference with the price mechanism operation?
Mugen
We use a Supply and Demand graph to illustrate at what price level will the market for a certain good or service be at equilibrium. If the price for a good or service is set too high, consumers will be less inclined to buy that product Thus, creating a surplus.
The
This surplus will eventually drive the price back down to it's equilibrium point. Similarly, if a price for a good or service is set too low, individuals would be more inclined to buy more of a certain product, creating a shortage. This shortage will cause sellers to drive the price back up to the
The
equilibrium point.
The
is it true that the opportunity cost of unemployed labour is zero?
Wisdom Reply
no
Oigebe
give two forms of collusion
nondumiso Reply
1.Explicit Collusion: Also termed overt collusion, this occurs when two or more firms in the same industry formally agree to control the market .
Gafar
2.Implicit Collusion: Also termed tacit collusion, this occurs when two or more firms in the same industry informally agree to control the market, often through nothing more than interdependent actions. A prime example of implicit collusion is price leadership .
Gafar
explicit collusion: this occurs when two or more firms in the same industry legally agree to control the market
Panashe
implicit collusion this occurs when two or more firms in the same industry illegally agree to control the market
Panashe
what is responsible for investigating cases of collusion
nondumiso
what mean economic as a science
Godwin
reasons why a country maybe involved in international trade
Nde Reply
state five similarities and differences between money market and capital market
Victoria Reply
Give a Zimbabwean example of firms operating in an oligopoly market and illustrate using diagrams how a manager in such a market maximize profit
Pam Reply
what is an industry
EWAH Reply
An industry is the production of goods and related services within an economy
Prabhu
an industry is place where goods and services are produced for human consumption....
Usman
scarcity is the major course of economics problems. discuss
Abdulhameed Reply
please say about that it is interesting for us
Abayneh

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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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