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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

more explanation on GDP
Isaac Reply
it is a country total out put of goods and services divided by the total population of the country.I think it can also be derived from the country labour force,,because it mostly depend on the labour force and the level of technology .
Tantoh
labour force and technological progress leads to greater production increases the GDP
Ahmed
What is economics?
Bubu Reply
by this time
Emmanuel
It is a social science that analyses production,distribution and consumption of goods and services
Emmanuel
A social science that study human behavior in relationship with decision making
Jessica
What are the typical patterns of GDP for a high-income economy like the United States in the long run and the short run?
mwangala Reply
What are the limitation and significant of macroeconomic
Usman Reply
explain the significance of concerpt of opportunity cost in planning
Mwanaid Reply
what is meant by the price elasticity of demand?
Martine Reply
when price of a commodity increase it's demand contracts , and whe the price of a commodity decreases it's demand expands so the degree of change in demand in response to change in own price of the commodity is called PED . Ed = percentage change in quantity demanded / percentage change in price
shaswat
What are the limitations of macroeconomic and their segnificant
Usman Reply
Discuss the role of competition in stimulating economic growth?
Daniel Reply
competition stimulate economic growth because in such types of economy,they is no monopoly power every supplier will want to produce to meet customers choice which brings about quality production and attract invested and customers into such economy
Koka
competition creates Monopoly because of economy of scale. it's not antithesis but different side of same coin
toko
competition result in high economic growth since every firm will intend to provide quality services and products to meet customers needs and requirements unlike in Monopoly situation where a firm just provide what it want to resulting in large stock piles of unwanted products ,ie inefficiency, howev
Mark
microeconomics study part of the economy but macroeconomic study the whole economy
Olokun Reply
studying the whole economy, solving the problem of the economy and building up the economy
Olokun
micro means small while macro means large
Olokun
standard of living is the footsteps of an economy because it plays important role for country to have crucial view about their budget ,import and export
Olokun
it will be differ because economic agent will only take their views on some part of household
Olokun
can opportunity cost be zero
OBED Reply
how many types of transportation do we have
Jacob
yes. when a customer's purchasing power is high, he may have d ability to purchase all he needs, dt makes opportunity cost zero
George
please can give more explanation on this question
OBED
what are the factors production
PETER Reply
Labour capital entrepreneurs
Leta
Land,capital, labour,and the entrepreneur
Tantoh
I will like to know use of calculus in economics
JHUMA Reply
do they use it in economics?
Pranav
I want to know if I should take calculus or statistics and probability my senior year of highschool
Yahir
yes for example in monopolistic competitive market..... TR=TC* & THIS CALCULATED BY CHANGING( DERIVATIVE LAW) MR =MC ** WILL BE THE FORMULA THAT USE.
Leta
please in which topic in economic is the question coming from.
Tantoh
from PCF in economics
Leta
why is unitary proportional to responsiveness
Etim Reply
any tip for igcse economics exam?pls
Stacey Reply
well
The
What is a market
Divine Reply
what are the variables that affect demand
Divine
what are the variables that affect demand
Divine
what are the variables that affect demand
Divine
what are the variables that affect demand
Divine
what are the variables that affect demand
Divine
price of the related goods 2 price of the given commodity 3 income of the consumer 4 taste and preference 5 expectation in the future price
John
pls the taste and preference
Nas
explain briefly
Nas
a consumer taste and preference commodity changes for a time the man becomes
John
sorry sorry
John
is when the price of a commodity becomes high and can't afford example Samsung instead of iPhone
John
consumers who have high intense for goods will purchase the goods even if the price of that commodity increases because he or she preferred that commodity.people will be prefer iphone as its price increase
Yussif
as usual bad taste of preference is when a consumer regrets from one commodity to another in terms of the price
John
thanks alot
Nas
you're welcome
John
#Preference; #Income #Test
Dereje
#price Of Commodity #Income #Taste #Preference
Dereje
#Market is The Place Where Buyers And Sellers Are Exchanging Their Goods And service. #
Dereje
difference between macro and micro economics
Lawrence
Microeconomic Study about individual consumers market But Macroeconomis Study General economic Process Such As #Aggregate Demand #Aggregate Supples #GDp= #GNp
Dereje
nice so can u run down a brife discussion on GDP
Lawrence
good
Chinex

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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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