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This situation, when economies of scale are large relative to the quantity demanded in the market, is called a natural monopoly. Natural monopolies often arise in industries where the marginal cost of adding an additional customer is very low, once the fixed costs of the overall system are in place. Once the main water pipes are laid through a neighborhood, the marginal cost of providing water service to another home is fairly low. Once electricity lines are installed through a neighborhood, the marginal cost of providing additional electrical service to one more home is very low. It would be costly and duplicative for a second water company to enter the market and invest in a whole second set of main water pipes, or for a second electricity company to enter the market and invest in a whole new set of electrical wires. These industries offer an example where, because of economies of scale, one producer can serve the entire market more efficiently than a number of smaller producers that would need to make duplicate physical capital investments.

A natural monopoly can also arise in smaller local markets for products that are difficult to transport. For example, cement production exhibits economies of scale, and the quantity of cement demanded in a local area may not be much larger than what a single plant can produce. Moreover, the costs of transporting cement over land are high, and so a cement plant in an area without access to water transportation may be a natural monopoly.

Control of a physical resource

Another type of natural monopoly occurs when a company has control of a scarce physical resource. In the U.S. economy, one historical example of this pattern occurred when ALCOA—the Aluminum Company of America—controlled most of the supply of bauxite, a key mineral used in making aluminum. Back in the 1930s, when ALCOA controlled most of the bauxite, other firms were simply unable to produce enough aluminum to compete.

As another example, the majority of global diamond production is controlled by DeBeers, a multi-national company that has mining and production operations in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Canada. It also has exploration activities on four continents, while directing a worldwide distribution network of rough cut diamonds. Though in recent years they have experienced growing competition, their impact on the rough diamond market is still considerable.

For some products, the government erects barriers to entry by prohibiting or limiting competition. Under U.S. law, no organization but the U.S. Postal Service is legally allowed to deliver first-class mail. Many states or cities have laws or regulations that allow households a choice of only one electric company, one water company, and one company to pick up the garbage. Most legal monopolies are considered utilities—products necessary for everyday life—that are socially beneficial to have. As a consequence, the government allows producers to become regulated monopolies, to insure that an appropriate amount of these products is provided to consumers. Additionally, legal monopolies are often subject to economies of scale, so it makes sense to allow only one provider.

Questions & Answers

current economic plans (MDGS) needs
Ajijola Reply
I don't know what is happening
surajkumar
What is economic
Joeali Reply
What is the importance of study economics
Wilma
Economic is the study of how humans make decisions in face of sacristy
Wilma
economics is the study of how humans makes decision in the face of scarcity
Kpienta
economics is the study of human behaviour when faced with difficult situation example when goods and services are scarcity.
Sydney
what is Economic
Dauda Reply
what is 4ps of economic?
thomas Reply
production place Price product
Benedict
Criticism of elasticity
Siddikur Reply
what is unemployment
Gyamfi Reply
ohk thanks
Gyamfi
why is unemployment rapid in the country
Gyamfi
I need more explanation
Odo
what is unemployment
Munanag Reply
not working
Bethel
some one who is willing qualified to work but can't find job
jackie
Bethel...explain? please
Abubakar
some one who is willing to work but can't find job
Hawa
Yes true
Brian
which one please
Hawa
unemployment refers to the ability for someone who is capable and willing to work but could not find a job..
Mnoko
some one who not able to find a job
Dennis
please what is the secret of learning?
thomas
What is stock market?
JOHN Reply
explain the various types of cost curve
Ruth Reply
Short-run average fixed cost (SRAFC) Short-run average total cost (SRAC or SRATC) Short-run average variable cost (AVC or SRAVC) Short-run fixed cost (FC or SRFC) Short-run marginal cost (SRMC) Short-run total cost (SRTC)
Romy
what's economic development and growth
Popoola Reply
what do you understand by Ceteris Paribus?
Gabriel Reply
the external factor will remained constant, except the price
Hasib
explain the uses of microeconomics
Nikita Reply
uses of microeconomics
Nikita
Adam Smith's definition of economics
Sylvia Reply
what is economic deficit
Amjad
this is a situation whereby a nation's outcome or available resources are not enough to the people thereby causing scarcity
Ariel
prices of Quality demanded is equal to Quality supplied
NABUBOLO Reply
it's quantity demand and quantity supplied that's called equilibrium
Romy
no
NABUBOLO
they deal With prices
NABUBOLO
define the elasticity
NABUBOLO
explain different types of elasticity
NABUBOLO
oops 😬 you are right you talk about quality I tell about quantity
Romy
elasticity is the measurement of the percentage change of one economic variable in response to a change in another
Romy
Cross Elasticity of Demand (XED) Income Elasticity of Demand (YED) Price Elasticity of Supply (PES)
Romy
anything else?
Romy
I need to know everything about theory of consumer behavior
Grace
Romy, what is microeconomic?
thomas
What is Economic please
Dauda
Thomas, microeconomics is the study of how consumers, workers, and firms interact to generate outcomes in specific markets
Kieran
Dauda, economics is the study of people and choices. it is on one side the study of wealth and on the more important side, a part of the study if man
Kieran
How does one analyze a market where both demand and supply shift?
Gabriel Reply
That's equilibrium market
Ramon
but an equlibrum can appear twice on the same market... both in Movement along the Demand/supply curve of shift in the Curve
Gabriel
I Mean on the same curve..
Gabriel
how can consumer surplus be calculated
Franklyn

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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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