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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

Inflation is defined as the rise in price of a commodity.
Nureni Reply
It is defined as the rise in price of a commodity.
Nureni
the persistent rise in the prices of goods and services. or commodities.
SULEIMAN
pls the third and fourth law of supply
Yarouh
what's GDP?
Allen
gross domestic product
Annor
GDP stands for Gross Domestic Product
Sande
yes
HlobisileM
what us maxima and minima
MiXUP Reply
Maxima s below equilibrium. Whilst minima s above. Equilibrium
Afran
Wht is demand
Afran
is the willingness and the ability of a consumer to purchase goods at a given price and at a particular point in time.
Assan
Ohhk different question? Ask
Afran
why is the demand curve downwards sloppy?
Assan
3 Reasons.. 1... diminishing marginal utility 2... substitution effect 3...income effect
Harshita
thanks
Assan
Because of the negative or inverse relationship between price and quantity demanded
Afran
what is the law of diminishing returns states?
Assan
ohk
Assan
The law states that all other things being equall as much of variable factor(labour) is employed on fixed factor(land) the marginal product rises..attain a maximum and begins to fall.
Afran
What is income elasticity of demand
Afran
what is monetary policy
Edward
Monetary policy is an attempt to influence the economy by opera ting in such monetary variables
Afran
thanks
Edward
Wlcm
Afran
Wht is disutility?
Afran
is disutility? is rightly writing?
Yhlas
is it i wanna say
Yhlas
Yes please Disutility
Afran
what is macro economics?
Oyas
the branch of economics concerned with large-scale or general economic factors, such as interest rates and national productivity.
idk
in other words it is the study of the economic as a whole
idk
What is an Economic growth
Ayumo Reply
Economic growth is the process whereby the real per capita income of an economy increases over a long period of time.
Nureni
what is the generally accepted defination of economics and by who
IDY Reply
Economics is defined by Lionel Robbins as a social science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses
Tba
Importance of economic
Achike Reply
Helps in decision making
MP
I need like 5 importance
Achike
hi
Physcal
Hey
Muhammad
hellow dear.
juwel
hello
Al-ameen
Hello
MP
it helps an individual in rational decision making process
Assan
Fine and u
Buzabaryaho
how does it make individual in rational dicision making decisions
Annor
if an individual is faced with unlimited wants.
Assan
it also helps an individual in arranging their wants in order of their importance.
Assan
ohk
Annor
ok
Al-ameen
Hello guys
Radah
My name is Radah
Radah
Please what is a scale of preference used for?
Radah
it's use for arranging wants in order of their importance.
Assan
in other words when an individual is faced with unlimited wants,scale of preference would help the individual to select the most important wants.
Assan
Thanks
Radah
welcome
Assan
what is tourism
forgive Reply
Tourism is travel for pleasure or business
Yusuf
It is the commercial organization and operation of holidays and visits to places of interest.
Nureni
who is a price taker?
sam Reply
A price taker is a person or a company who have no control to dictate a prices of a goods or services
Unique
Someone who sets price
Nureni
In the trading world, a price taker is a trader who does not affect the price of the stock if he or she buys or sells shares.
Nureni
A price taker refers to a firm or an individual who sets the price of his good and services based on an external factor. In other words he cannot choose and set a price by himself. An example is a firm operating in perfect competition where prices are set through the price mechanism.
Tba
in a common and suitable sense state the law of diminishing returns
Unique Reply
The higher the satisfaction derived from a particular commodity,the lower the demand for it but that law doesn't match in some instances.
Nureni
state the features of an imperfect competitive market
Naomi
@NURENI instance like wat
Unique
imperfect competitive market involves large number of sellers and buyers price makers selling cost product differentiation free entry and exit of a firms
Unique
is economics a science
Alex Reply
yes. a social science.
Carlos
Yes of cause It uses scientific principles in its research. That is to say, analyzing data, making experiment as well as making deductions and drawing conclusions
Aziz
U can understand the scientific nature of economics by learning about the methods used by Abhijit Banerjee(indian) ,the nobel prize laureate 2019.
Harshita
it is considered as a social science
idk
Hence, economics is a science, a social science many can call it, or more appropriately, a young science
Taha
it can be called social science because of behaviour ,which is unpredictable.There r many theroies in economics which make economics a social science But some economic theories makes it science
Harshita
human behaviour*
Harshita
remember science derives from the root words "to know". With that being said most fields of study can be considered as a science or soft science, for they possess key knowledge to attaining understanding of our world.
Alexander
economics is a science cos it deals with human wants, desire or neads in order to satisfy them
Unique
according comparision of political science economic is science.
Hassan
what's the question?
Nureni Reply
Discuss economics system
Henry Reply
discuss institutional system
Henry
Give 3 at most advantages and disadvantages of economics system and institutional syatem
Henry
Give the features characteristics of market or free enterprise
Henry
The structure of an economy is largely determined by the economic system which is a function of the economic ideology of the nation
Nureni
The economic system is grouped into 5 groups: 1: Pure market 2: Developed market 3: Centrally planned or Socialist 4: Mixed market and 5: Market Socialist Economic systems
Nureni
what is inflation
Prince Reply
Inflation is a sustained and general rise in the price of all goods and services of an economy
Tba
hello everyone , I'm New here, third degree price discrimination?
Saeed Reply
2nd degree price discrimination?
Saeed
hi
Kini
hi
Mitchel
Hi
MP
price paid by consumers after the sales tax is called?
Pinias Reply
why government impose price floor on certain products?
Pinias
how can black market be occurred when price ceiling is introduced?
Pinias
How can inflation affect goods and services?
Ph
When prices rise for energy, food, commodities, and other goods and services, the entire economy is affected
Joan
If inflation becomes too high the economy can suffer conversely, if inflation is controlled and at reasonable levels, the economy may prosper. With controlled, lower inflation, employment increases.
Joan
Is it necessary to make decision when it fails you
Evelin Reply
Pls when what fails u
MP
I think so
Kini
well i might naught know what you on about but i gotta tell you, it is necessary
Troy
yep
Ibe
Kk
MP
yep
Ibe

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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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