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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Calculate profits by comparing total revenue and total cost
  • Identify profits and losses with the average cost curve
  • Explain the shutdown point
  • Determine the price at which a firm should continue producing in the short run

A perfectly competitive firm has only one major decision to make—namely, what quantity to produce. To understand why this is so, consider a different way of writing out the basic definition of profit :

Profit = Total revenue Total cost           = ( Price ) ( Quantity produced ) ( Average cost ) ( Quantity produced )

Since a perfectly competitive firm must accept the price for its output as determined by the product’s market demand and supply, it cannot choose the price it charges. This is already determined in the profit equation, and so the perfectly competitive firm can sell any number of units at exactly the same price. It implies that the firm faces a perfectly elastic demand curve for its product: buyers are willing to buy any number of units of output from the firm at the market price. When the perfectly competitive firm chooses what quantity to produce, then this quantity—along with the prices prevailing in the market for output and inputs—will determine the firm’s total revenue, total costs, and ultimately, level of profits.

Determining the highest profit by comparing total revenue and total cost

A perfectly competitive firm can sell as large a quantity as it wishes, as long as it accepts the prevailing market price. Total revenue is going to increase as the firm sells more, depending on the price of the product and the number of units sold. If you increase the number of units sold at a given price, then total revenue will increase. If the price of the product increases for every unit sold, then total revenue also increases. As an example of how a perfectly competitive firm decides what quantity to produce, consider the case of a small farmer who produces raspberries and sells them frozen for $4 per pack. Sales of one pack of raspberries will bring in $4, two packs will be $8, three packs will be $12, and so on. If, for example, the price of frozen raspberries doubles to $8 per pack, then sales of one pack of raspberries will be $8, two packs will be $16, three packs will be $24, and so on.

Total revenue and total costs for the raspberry farm, broken down into fixed and variable costs, are shown in [link] and also appear in [link] . The horizontal axis shows the quantity of frozen raspberries produced in packs; the vertical axis shows both total revenue and total costs, measured in dollars. The total cost curve intersects with the vertical axis at a value that shows the level of fixed costs, and then slopes upward. All these cost curves follow the same characteristics as the curves covered in the Cost and Industry Structure chapter.

Total cost and total revenue at the raspberry farm

The graph shows that firms will incur a loss if the total cost is higher than the total revenue.
Total revenue for a perfectly competitive firm is a straight line sloping up. The slope is equal to the price of the good. Total cost also slopes up, but with some curvature. At higher levels of output, total cost begins to slope upward more steeply because of diminishing marginal returns. The maximum profit will occur at the quantity where the gap of total revenue over total cost is largest.

Questions & Answers

what is economics
reekado Reply
definition of economics according to different scholars
Onesmo Reply
Economics is a science that studies human behavior as a relationship between end and scarce means which have alternative uses:by Davern spot
am I correct?
reason why we study economics
Moruf Reply
what is economics
Tutu Reply
economics is defined as the science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses.
what is a gross domestic product
Amogelang Reply
Explain what is a production possibility curve
Sharon Reply
A curve that indicates the various production possibilities of two commodities when resources are fixed...
what is market?
Jasmin Reply
ware the Byers and seller's that please is called market
a place where buyers and sellers meet
I don't like this market definition.
market is any arrangement whereby buyers and sellers are brought together for the purpose of transacting business. It could be a geographical location or any other means such as internet, mobile phone etc. as long as buyers and sellers are brought together for the purpose of exchange.
A market is a place where buyers and sellers buy and sell goods through bargaining.
yes ,you are correct Agusimba sir.
exception of the low of demond
Rohit Reply
short run AC curves?
Jasmin Reply
you mean shirt run cost curves?
A short-run cost curve shows the minimum cost impact of output changes for a specific plant size and in a given operating environment. Such curves reflect the optimal or least-cost input combination for producing output under fixed circumstances.
nooo am not from India why!?
Godwin Reply
Godwin which level of education are you please
millionaires am in SHS 2
who was the father of economic ?why?
Mahesh Reply
Rationing and hoarding
Semiat Reply
how do the size of a country's population affect labour force
Evans Reply
a mixed economic system
Ngong Reply
What are the types of price elasticity of demand
Juliana Reply
what are massures to promote geographical mobility of labor?
Is to make sure that a labourer to know more about his salary to earn before going to the direction
types of Price elasticity of demand are fairly elastic demand, fairly inelastic demand, unity demand, perfectly elastic demand and perfectly inelastic 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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