16

 
 


MONOPOLISTIC COMPETITION

 
stic Competition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


SOLUTIONS TO TEXT PROBLEMS:

 

Quick Quizzes

 

1.   Oligopoly is a market structure in which only a few sellers offer similar or identical products.  Examples include the market for tennis balls and the world market for crude oil.  Monopolistic competition is a market structure in which many firms sell products that are similar but not identical.  Examples include the markets for novels, movies, restaurant meals, and computer games.

 

2.   The three key attributes of monopolistic competition are:  (1) there are many sellers; (2) each firm produces a slightly different product; and (3) firms can enter or exit the market freely.

 

      Figure 1 shows the long-run equilibrium in a monopolistically competitive market.  This equilibrium differs from that in a perfectly competitive market because price exceeds marginal cost and the firm does not produce at the minimum point of average total cost but instead produces at less than the efficient scale.

 

 

Figure 1

 

3.   Advertising may make markets less competitive if it manipulates people’s tastes rather than being informative.  Advertising may give consumers the perception that there is a greater difference between two products than really exists.  That makes the demand curve for a product more inelastic, so the firms can then charge greater markups over marginal cost.  However, some advertising could make markets more competitive because it sometimes provides useful information to consumers, allowing them to take advantage of price differences more easily. Advertising also facilitates entry because it can be used to inform consumers about a new product.  In addition, expensive advertising can be a signal of quality. 

 

      Brand names may be beneficial because they provide information to consumers about the quality of goods.  They also give firms an incentive to maintain high quality, since their reputations are important.  But brand names may be criticized because they may simply differentiate products that are not really different, as in the case of drugs that are identical with the brand-name drug selling at a much higher price than the generic drug.

 

 

Questions for Review

 

1.   The three attributes of monopolistic competition are: (1) there are many sellers; (2) each seller produces a slightly different product; and (3) firms can enter or exit the market without restriction. Monopolistic competition is like monopoly because firms face a downward-sloping demand curve, so price exceeds marginal cost. Monopolistic competition is like perfect competition because, in the long run, price equals average total cost, as free entry and exit drive economic profit to zero.

 

2.   In Figure 2, a firm has demand curve D1 and marginal-revenue curve MR1. The firm is making profits because at quantity Q1, price (P1) is above average total cost (ATC). Those profits induce other firms to enter the industry, causing the demand curve to shift to D2 and the marginal-revenue curve to shift to MR2. The result is a decline in quantity to Q2, at which point the price (P2) equals average total cost (ATC), so profits are now zero.

 

 

Figure 2

 

3.   Figure 3 shows the long-run equilibrium in a monopolistically competitive market. Price equals average total cost. Price is above marginal cost.

 

 

Figure 3

 

  4. Because, in equilibrium, price is above marginal cost, a monopolistic competitor produces too little output. But this is a hard problem to solve because: (1) the administrative burden of regulating the large number of monopolistically competitive firms would be high; and (2) the firms are earning zero economic profits, so forcing them to price at marginal cost means that firms would lose money unless the government subsidized them.

 

5.   Advertising might reduce economic well-being because it manipulates people's tastes and impedes competition by making products appear more different than they really are. But advertising might increase economic well-being by providing useful information to consumers and fostering competition.

 

6.   Advertising with no apparent informational content might convey information to consumers if it provides a signal of quality. A firm will not be willing to spend much money advertising a low-quality good, but may be willing to spend significantly more to advertise a high-quality good.

 

7.   The two benefits that might arise from the existence of brand names are: (1) brand names provide consumers information about quality when quality cannot be easily judged in advance; and (2) brand names give firms an incentive to maintain high quality to maintain the reputation of their brand names.

 

 

Problems and Applications

 

1.   a.   Tap water is a perfectly competitive market because there are many taps and the product does not differ across sellers.

 

b.   Bottled water is a monopolistically competitive market. There are many sellers of bottled water, but each firm tries to differentiate its own brand from the rest.

 

c.    The cola market is an oligopoly. There are only a few firms that control a large portion of the market.

 

d.   The beer market is an oligopoly. There are only a few firms that control a large portion of the market.

 

2.   a.   The market for #2 pencils is perfectly competitive because pencils by any manufacturer are identical and there are a large number of manufacturers.

 

b.   The market for copper is perfectly competitive, because all copper is identical and there are a large number of producers.

 

c.    The market for local telephone service is monopolistic because it is a natural monopoly—it is cheaper for one firm to supply all the output.

 

d.   The market for peanut butter is monopolistically competitive because different brand names exist with different quality characteristics.

 

e.   The market for lipstick is monopolistically competitive because lipstick from different firms differs slightly, but there are a large number of firms that can enter or exit without restriction.

 

3.   a.   A firm in monopolistic competition sells a differentiated product from its competitors.

 

b.   A firm in monopolistic competition has marginal revenue less than price.

 

c.    Neither a firm in monopolistic competition nor in perfect competition earns economic profit in the long run.

 

d.   A firm in perfect competition produces at minimum average total cost in the long run.

 

e.   Both a firm in monopolistic competition and a firm in perfect competition equate marginal revenue and marginal cost.

 

f.    A firm in monopolistic competition charges a price above marginal cost.

 

4.   a.   Both a firm in monopolistic competition and a monopoly firm face a downward-sloping demand curve.

 

b.   Both a firm in monopolistic competition and a monopoly firm have marginal revenue that is less than price.

 

c.    A firm in monopolistic competition faces the entry of new firms selling similar products.

 

d.   A monopoly firm earns economic profit in the long run.

 

e.   Both a firm in monopolistic competition and a monopoly firm equate marginal revenue and marginal cost.

 

f.    Neither a firm in monopolistic competition nor a monopoly firm produce the socially efficient quantity of output.

 

5.   a.   The firm is not maximizing profit. For a firm in monopolistic competition, price is greater than marginal revenue. If price is below marginal cost, marginal revenue must be less than marginal cost. Thus, the firm should reduce its output to increase its profit.

 

b.   The firm may be maximizing profit if marginal revenue is equal to marginal cost. However, the firm is not in long-run equilibrium because price is less than average total cost. In this case, firms will exit the industry and the demand facing the remaining firms will rise until economic profit is zero.

 

c.    The firm is not maximizing profit. For a firm in monopolistic competition, price is greater than marginal revenue. If price is equal to marginal cost, marginal revenue must be less than marginal cost. Thus, the firm should reduce its output to increase its profit.

 

d.   The firm could be maximizing profit if marginal revenue is equal to marginal cost. The firm is in long-run equilibrium because price is equal to average total cost. Therefore, the firm is earning zero economic profit.

 

6.   a.   Figure 4 illustrates the market for Sparkle toothpaste in long-run equilibrium. The profit-maximizing level of output is QM and the price is PM.

 

 

Figure 4

 

b.   Sparkle's profit is zero, because at quantity QM, price equals average total cost.

 

c.    The consumer surplus from the purchase of Sparkle toothpaste is areas A + B. The efficient level of output occurs where the demand curve intersects the marginal-cost curve, at QC. The deadweight loss is area C, the area above marginal cost and below demand, from QM to QC.

 

d.   If the government forced Sparkle to produce the efficient level of output, the firm would lose money because average total cost would exceed price, so the firm would shut down. If that happened, Sparkle's customers would earn no consumer surplus.

 

7.   a.   A family-owned restaurant would be more likely to advertise than a family-owned farm because the output of the farm is sold in a perfectly competitive market, in which there is no reason to advertise, while the output of the restaurant is sold in a monopolistically competitive market.

 

b.   A manufacturer of cars is more likely to advertise than a manufacturer of forklifts because there is little difference between different brands of industrial products like forklifts, while there are greater perceived differences between consumer products like cars. The possible return to advertising is greater in the case of cars than in the case of forklifts.

 

c.    A company that invented a very comfortable razor is likely to advertise more than a company that invented a less comfortable razor that costs the same amount to make because the company with the very comfortable razor will get many repeat sales over time to cover the cost of the advertising, while the company with the less comfortable razor will not.

 

8.   a.   Figure 5 shows Sleek’s demand, marginal-revenue, marginal-cost, and average-total-cost curves.  The firm will maximize profit at an output level of Q * and a price of P *.  The shaded are shows the firm’s profits.

 

 

Figure 5

 

 

b.   In the long run, firms will enter, shifting the demand for Sleek’s product to the left.  Its price and output will fall.  Firms will enter until profits are equal to zero (as shown in Figure 6).

 

 

Figure 6

 

c.    As consumers become more focused on the stylistic differences in brands, they will be less focused on price.  This will make the demand for each firm’s products more price inelastic.  The demand curves may become relatively steeper, allowing Sleek to charge a higher price.  If these stylistic features cannot be copied, they may serve as a barrier to entry and allow Sleek to earn profit in the long run.

 

d.   A firm in monopolistic competition produces where marginal revenue is greater than zero.  This means that firm must be operating on the elastic portion of its demand curve.

 

9.   a.   Perdue created a brand name for chicken by advertising. By doing so, he was able to differentiate his product from other chicken, gaining market power.

 

b.   Society gained to the extent that Perdue has a great incentive to maintain the quality of his chicken. Society lost to the extent that the market for chicken became less competitive, with the associated deadweight loss.

 

10.  a.   Figure 7 shows Tylenol's demand, marginal revenue, and marginal cost curves. Tylenol's price is PT, its marginal cost is MCT, and its markup over marginal cost is PTMCT.

 

 

Figure 7

 

b.   Figure 8 shows the demand, marginal revenue, and marginal cost curves for a maker of acetaminophen. The diagrams differ in that the acetaminophen maker faces a horizontal demand curve, while the maker of Tylenol faces a downward-sloping demand curve. The acetaminophen maker has no markup of price over marginal cost, while the maker of Tylenol has a positive markup, because it has some market power.

 

 

Figure 8

 

c.    The maker of Tylenol has a bigger incentive for careful quality control, because if quality were poor, the value of its brand name would deteriorate, sales would decline, and its advertising would be worthless.

 

11.  a.   Figure 9 shows the market demand.

Figure 9

 

 

b.   See Figure 9 for the marginal revenue curve. Marginal revenue is equal to 2 – 2Q /N.

 

c.    Marginal revenue is equal to zero where 2 – 2Q /N = 0, or Q = N.  This will occur at a price of P = 2 – Q /N or 2 – 1 = 1.

 

d.   Profit will be equal to total revenue, which is N × 1 = N.  Total surplus will be equal to 1.5N.

 

e.   N would have to be at least 3 million for the firm to make a profit of zero.  Because the fixed cost does not affect marginal cost, the socially efficient level of output is also unaffected.  It will be where P = MC or 2N.

 

f.    The fixed costs will prevent the socially optimal output from occurring.  Even if N is greater than 3 million, firms will only produce an output level of N to maximize profits.