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

  • Explain why and how oligopolies exist
  • Contrast collusion and competition
  • Interpret and analyze the prisoner’s dilemma diagram
  • Evaluate the tradeoffs of imperfect competition

Many purchases that individuals make at the retail level are produced in markets that are neither perfectly competitive, monopolies, nor monopolistically competitive. Rather, they are oligopolies. Oligopoly arises when a small number of large firms have all or most of the sales in an industry. Examples of oligopoly abound and include the auto industry, cable television, and commercial air travel. Oligopolistic firms are like cats in a bag. They can either scratch each other to pieces or cuddle up and get comfortable with one another. If oligopolists compete hard, they may end up acting very much like perfect competitors, driving down costs and leading to zero profits for all. If oligopolists collude with each other, they may effectively act like a monopoly and succeed in pushing up prices and earning consistently high levels of profit. Oligopolies are typically characterized by mutual interdependence where various decisions such as output, price, advertising, and so on, depend on the decisions of the other firm(s). Analyzing the choices of oligopolistic firms about pricing and quantity produced involves considering the pros and cons of competition versus collusion at a given point in time.

Why do oligopolies exist?

A combination of the barriers to entry that create monopolies and the product differentiation that characterizes monopolistic competition can create the setting for an oligopoly. For example, when a government grants a patent for an invention to one firm, it may create a monopoly. When the government grants patents to, for example, three different pharmaceutical companies that each has its own drug for reducing high blood pressure, those three firms may become an oligopoly.

Similarly, a natural monopoly    will arise when the quantity demanded in a market is only large enough for a single firm to operate at the minimum of the long-run average cost curve. In such a setting, the market has room for only one firm, because no smaller firm can operate at a low enough average cost to compete, and no larger firm could sell what it produced given the quantity demanded in the market.

Quantity demanded in the market may also be two or three times the quantity needed to produce at the minimum of the average cost curve—which means that the market would have room for only two or three oligopoly firms (and they need not produce differentiated products). Again, smaller firms would have higher average costs and be unable to compete, while additional large firms would produce such a high quantity that they would not be able to sell it at a profitable price. This combination of economies of scale and market demand creates the barrier to entry, which led to the Boeing-Airbus oligopoly for large passenger aircraft.

The product differentiation at the heart of monopolistic competition can also play a role in creating oligopoly. For example, firms may need to reach a certain minimum size before they are able to spend enough on advertising and marketing to create a recognizable brand name. The problem in competing with, say, Coca-Cola or Pepsi is not that producing fizzy drinks is technologically difficult, but rather that creating a brand name and marketing effort to equal Coke or Pepsi is an enormous task.

Questions & Answers

principle of effective demand?
Abubakar Reply
the is the situation in which the need of individuals exceed the available resource. increase in population rate and wrong decision making
esther Reply
what is the different between wants and demand?
Terkimbi
wants are what people desire to have but they can live without them and demand is a thing that is most wanted
Murewah
what are the demand pull inflation
Hijja
the higher the aggregate level of activity, the larger the proportion of areas and industries which experience excess demand for goods and labour of various sorts , and the more powerful is demand-inflationary pressure . Demand inflation is contrasted with cost inflation , in which price and wage
Murewah
increases are transmitted from one sector to another. These should be regarded as different aspects of an overal inflation starts , cost inflation explains why inflation once begun is so difficult to stop.
Murewah
what is the important difference between positive and normative economics
Umar
positive economics is the study of how an economy works in practice, as opposed to the theoretical study of how it should run in theory and normative economics is the party of economics that is concerned with how the economy ought to be run.
Murewah
positive economic deal with fact and also talks about how the economy actually is like while normative economic deal with value judgement and talks about how the economy ought to be like
esther
What is the difference between opportunity cost and choice
Murewah
opportunity cost are also known as forgun alternative why choice is to select one among alternative
Terkimbi
importance of economic
Zakaria Reply
satisfaction of human wants
Festo
economics is about to economise . discuss
Angel Reply
Underlines the efficiency aspect. Economise towards what: Economise factors to reach equal distribution of Material wealth or Just to operate optimally to Service demand, i. e. Run markets efficiently?
Homo
join the conversation
abba Reply
what is terms of trade
Ibrahim Reply
different btn import and export
Angel
No question... This is nice
Gbenga Reply
hw can we solve problem of scarcity
Oigebe
scarcity is not necessarily a problem but a constant condition of the world. there are not enough resources to satisfy the unlimited wants.
Matthew
wee need to be cooperative
Zakaria
by unlimited resourses and abundant want
Angel
why do compute GDP?
steven Reply
can anyone shortly determine the word inflation.
Ibrahim Reply
Continous increase in the general level of prices or in the cost of living.
arshad
persistent increased in general price level
Machall
all correct...
paa
inflaction
Angel
rise in price.
Abubakar
deserving of money
Lazizjon
A persistent tendency for nominal prices to increase
Murewah
the father of economics
Reuben Reply
Adem smith
sj
Adem smith
Ajit
Adem smith sure
Adigwe
the father of economic regarding to adam Smith
Ibrahim
the father of political of economic and capitalism in his book and inquary in to the wealth of the nation.
Umar
Adam Smith his the father of economic
Mamudu
difference between injection and leakage
Asif
what is monopoly
Razak
Monopoly is a market structure where there is one firm who dominate the industry
wisdom
hi,, I am new here. please welcome me.
Mohammad
you are welcome
Adigwe
monopoly is the one characterized by a mkt power in which a firm is a price maker
Festo
Some member just ask questions but not answering so y this happen
Festo
Monopoly is a market where only one seller exists. No competition
Fred
how long does the patent right prevail the monopoly
Festo
no attempt
Zakaria
what is state farming
Sadiq
anybody to attempt
Festo
different types of price elasticity of demand with the aid of graphs
Tshepo Reply
what about mean median and mode
Dike Reply
mode is the most occurred number and median is the middle digit
John
the mean is the sum of all the data divided by the number eg: 2+4+4+5+3+5+1 =24÷7
BEGE
economics
ghani
what is exchange rate
Festo
thanks guys
Runwell
What is Equilibrium?
Santos
that when supply equals demand. that's where the supply curve and the demand curve intercept.
Oladele
equilibrium is when the both side of the price is balanced
Asuquo
Thanks Asuquo Agwuu
Santos
what is paradox Of drift
doris Reply
***economicsdiscussion.net/income/concept-of-paradox-of-thrift-with-diagram-micro-economics/713
lungku
it's thrift not drift
lungku
so what is it sir
Festo
what are the causes of unemployment
Afful Reply
lack of job in the rural areas
Nicholas
High level of illiteracy
Muhammad
Unfulfilled government promises
Vee
this one no be problem waii
Nicholas
low rate of industrialisation
Mimi
elements of economic
Muhammad Reply
Supply demand consumer and money.
Muhammad

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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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