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A prisoner’s dilemma for oligopolists
Firm B
Hold Down Output (cooperate with other firm) Increase Output (do not cooperate with other firm)
Firm A Hold Down Output (cooperate with other firm) A gets $1,000, B gets $1,000 A gets $200, B gets $1,500
Increase Output (do not cooperate with other firm) A gets $1,500, B gets $200 A gets $400, B gets $400

Can the two firms trust each other? Consider the situation of Firm A:

  • If A thinks that B will cheat on their agreement and increase output, then A will increase output, too, because for A the profit of $400 when both firms increase output (the bottom right-hand choice in [link] ) is better than a profit of only $200 if A keeps output low and B raises output (the upper right-hand choice in the table).
  • If A thinks that B will cooperate by holding down output, then A may seize the opportunity to earn higher profits by raising output. After all, if B is going to hold down output, then A can earn $1,500 in profits by expanding output (the bottom left-hand choice in the table) compared with only $1,000 by holding down output as well (the upper left-hand choice in the table).

Thus, firm A will reason that it makes sense to expand output if B holds down output and that it also makes sense to expand output if B raises output. Again, B faces a parallel set of decisions.

The result of this prisoner’s dilemma is often that even though A and B could make the highest combined profits by cooperating in producing a lower level of output and acting like a monopolist, the two firms may well end up in a situation where they each increase output and earn only $400 each in profits . The following Clear It Up feature discusses one cartel scandal in particular.

What is the lysine cartel?

Lysine, a $600 million-a-year industry, is an amino acid used by farmers as a feed additive to ensure the proper growth of swine and poultry. The primary U.S. producer of lysine is Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), but several other large European and Japanese firms are also in this market. For a time in the first half of the 1990s, the world’s major lysine producers met together in hotel conference rooms and decided exactly how much each firm would sell and what it would charge. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), however, had learned of the cartel and placed wire taps on a number of their phone calls and meetings.

From FBI surveillance tapes, following is a comment that Terry Wilson, president of the corn processing division at ADM, made to the other lysine producers at a 1994 meeting in Mona, Hawaii:

I wanna go back and I wanna say something very simple. If we’re going to trust each other, okay, and if I’m assured that I’m gonna get 67,000 tons by the year’s end, we’re gonna sell it at the prices we agreed to . . . The only thing we need to talk about there because we are gonna get manipulated by these [expletive] buyers—they can be smarter than us if we let them be smarter. . . . They [the customers]are not your friend. They are not my friend. And we gotta have ‘em, but they are not my friends. You are my friend. I wanna be closer to you than I am to any customer. Cause you can make us ... money. ... And all I wanna tell you again is let’s—let’s put the prices on the board. Let’s all agree that’s what we’re gonna do and then walk out of here and do it.

The price of lysine doubled while the cartel was in effect. Confronted by the FBI tapes, Archer Daniels Midland pled guilty in 1996 and paid a fine of $100 million. A number of top executives, both at ADM and other firms, later paid fines of up to $350,000 and were sentenced to 24–30 months in prison.

In another one of the FBI recordings, the president of Archer Daniels Midland told an executive from another competing firm that ADM had a slogan that, in his words, had “penetrated the whole company.” The company president stated the slogan this way: “Our competitors are our friends. Our customers are the enemy.” That slogan could stand as the motto of cartels everywhere.

Questions & Answers

what is imperfect competition ?
SHAH Reply
the situation in which elements of monopoly ( R&D, EOS and stability of prices etc.) allow individual producers or consumers to exercise some control over market prices
Ghulam
how to find shut down
Sowmya Reply
where p is less than avc
Koushik
s
Shahul
which is the best public finance economics text book?
Shahul
hello
shafiullah
hello
Shahul
Yes hi
Pov
....
SHAH
what are the alternatives various of economic system
olaleye Reply
what is microeconomics
Ayedun
Micro-economics refers to the branch of economics which deals with smaller unit or element of the economy.
Amadu
or Is the study of individual economic unit in a economy..
Neriel
micro economis is the studay of how Households and firms make decision and they interecr it.
mahad
what is financial intermediaries?
Imran Reply
financial intermediaries are those who are link between borrowers and lenders for.eg bank... Bank is a financial intermediary
Ajit
tnx a lot of u
Imran
most welcome
Ajit
why do you here ? why do you want to learn economics
Ajit
والله العظيم انا ماعاوز اتعلمها
انا باخدها غصب عني في الكليه حضرتك
لس كدااا
I am student of ecnomics ,
Imran
Imran
Abdi
yes Abdi temam
Imran
am good too see you
Abdi
tnx why not
Imran
b/c im student
Abdi
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Imran
ok
Abdi
OK
Ajit
what is the law of dimis
Toyin Reply
what is the feature of public ownership of production factors
Toyin
what is the demand for commodity that posses identical utilities called
Toyin
law of diminishing utility...as the quantity consumed of a commodity increases,the utility derived from each successive unit goes on decreasing... condition___ consumption of other commodities remaining the same.
Malik
sorry it's...Law of diminishing marginal utility
Malik
demand for commodities that posses identical utilities? The commodities having identical utilities are perfect substitutes...and the demand for such type of commodities is called "Competitive Demand".
Malik
thanks
Toyin
Why many people can't differentiate Economists and financial analysts
Hatimu
what is the function of the central bank in an economic?
Toyin
the central bank may lend some money to banks if necessary
konglan
what economics
Toyin Reply
Is this a question?
Tala
is the study of how societies allocate and manage their scare resources
Neriel
What is populatiin
Azer Reply
Population is a number of people living in a particular area within a particular time
Rabby
Population is the number of people living in a particular geographical area within a particular time
Rabby
how does this chat work
Dalaya
ya the ideas are good thanks friends
South
so what's the next question?
South
what is demand schedule
Toyin Reply
is a tabular representation of the quantity demanded of a particular product at a particular price over a given period of time
Loveth
thanks
Toyin
you are welcome
Loveth
ok
Hassan
What is Monetary Mass
Acha Reply
who is product of traditional economy
jamal Reply
what is elasticity
Suqlain Reply
change in quantity due to change in its price
sj
degree of responsiveness of quantity demanded or supplied due to price.change
Loveth
The law of demand and supply
RICHARD Reply
Law of demand...keep other things constant when price of commodity increases demand is decreases n price decreases demand increases.
sj
law of supply.. keep other things constant when commodity prices increase supply is also increased n price decreases supply is also decreased.
sj
Wow
RICHARD
Thank you
RICHARD
when prices increases causing demand curve to shift to left holding other variables constant.
Amos
what is the difference between quantity demanded nd price
Survival Reply
what is the difference between quantity demand and price
Md
There is an inverse relation between price and the quantity demanded...with the increase in price of a commodity, the demand for the commodity decreases and vice versa..
Malik
professor lionel Robbins define economics as a
ISAAC Reply
as the science that studies human behavior as the relationship between earn and scarce means which has alternative uses
Akon
study of wealth
Suqlain
explain the help of a production possibility diagram how the opprtunity cost of producing different combinations of goods
Leethwinna Reply
please tell me about opportunity cost
narad
it is the cost incurred searching for opportunity without choosing instead..
Ajit

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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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