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16 Oligopoly P R I N C I P L E S O F F O U R T H E D I T I O N
Oligopoly 16 P R I N C I P L E S O F F O U R T H E D I T I O N At this point, students have learned about the costs of production, and they have seen how these costs affect production and pricing decisions in two extreme market structures: perfect competition and monopoly. This chapter and the next explore the intermediate market structures of oligopoly and monopolistic competition. As with the PowerPoint presentations for most of the other chapters, this one illustrates the textbook material using (mostly) different examples than students will find when they read the textbook. (An exception is the Bonnie & Clyde example that introduces the prisoners’ dilemma.) Mostly, students find this chapter to be of average difficulty. Some students, however, have a little extra trouble with the simple game theory concepts introduced in the chapter, such as understanding how to read a payoff matrix. I’ve included an Active Learning exercise on this material, and there are more good exercises among the end-of-chapter problems and study guide.

In this chapter, look for the answers to these questions:
In this chapter, look for the answers to these questions: What market structures lie between perfect competition and monopoly, and what are their characteristics? What outcomes are possible under oligopoly? Why is it difficult for oligopoly firms to cooperate? How are antitrust laws used to foster competition? CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

Introduction: Between Monopoly and Competition
Two extremes Competitive markets: many firms, identical products Monopoly: one firm In between these extremes Oligopoly: only a few sellers offer similar or identical products. Monopolistic competition: many firms sell similar but not identical products. In the preceding two chapters, we studied the two extremes of the competition spectrum. This chapter focuses on oligopoly, one of the market structures in between the two extremes. Examples of each market type: * perfect competition: wheat, milk * monopoly: tap water, cable TV * oligopoly: tennis balls, cigarettes * monopolistic competition: novels, movies CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

Measuring Market Concentration
Concentration ratio: the percentage of the market’s total output supplied by its four largest firms. The higher the concentration ratio, the less competition. This chapter focuses on oligopoly, a market structure with high concentration ratios. CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

Concentration Ratios in Selected U.S. Industries
Industry Concentration ratio Video game consoles 100% Tennis balls Credit cards 99% Batteries 94% Soft drinks 93% Web search engines 92% Breakfast cereal Cigarettes 89% Greeting cards 88% Beer 85% Cell phone service 82% Autos 79% Sources: U.S. Census Bureau (www.census.gov), Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov), and various periodicals and microeconomics textbooks.

EXAMPLE: Cell Phone Duopoly in Smalltown
P Q \$0 140 5 130 10 120 15 110 20 100 25 90 30 80 35 70 40 60 45 50 Smalltown has 140 residents The “good”: cell phone service with unlimited anytime minutes and free phone Smalltown’s demand schedule Two firms: Cingular, Verizon (duopoly: an oligopoly with two firms) Each firm’s costs: FC = \$0, MC = \$10 To understand the behavior of oligopoly, we will consider an oligopoly with just two members – a duopoly. The textbook’s example (water) is simpler, because it uses zero marginal cost (as well as zero fixed cost). This is appropriate, because students will not have the instructor’s assistance when reading the textbook. But in class, with the instructor’s guidance, a slightly more complex example is appropriate. The added complexity in this example is non-zero marginal cost. (However, fixed costs are still zero.) Students probably think cell phones are more interesting than water, so they may like this example better than the one in the textbook. To keep the example manageably simple, we assume unlimited anytime minutes & free cell phone. Without either of these assumptions, then the “product” consumers buy would not have a single well-defined price, but the price would vary based on how many minutes the customer used, or what kind of phone the customer wanted with her service plan. Regarding the zero fixed cost assumption: This merely makes the math easier. As students will recall from Chapter 13, fixed costs are sunk costs and do not affect decisions or outcomes. CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

EXAMPLE: Cell Phone Duopoly in Smalltown
50 45 60 40 70 35 80 30 90 25 100 20 110 15 120 10 130 5 140 \$0 Q P 2,250 2,400 2,450 2,000 1,650 1,200 650 \$0 Revenue 500 600 700 800 900 1,000 1,100 1,200 1,300 \$1,400 Cost 1,750 1,800 1,600 1,350 1,000 550 –650 –1,400 Profit Competitive outcome: P = MC = \$10 Q = 120 Profit = \$0 Monopoly outcome: P = \$40 Q = 60 Profit = \$1,800 CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

EXAMPLE: Cell Phone Duopoly in Smalltown
One possible duopoly outcome: collusion Collusion: an agreement among firms in a market about quantities to produce or prices to charge Cingular and Verizon could agree to each produce half of the monopoly output: For each firm: Q = 30, P = \$40, profits = \$900 Cartel: a group of firms acting in unison, e.g., Cingular and Verizon in the outcome with collusion CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

A C T I V E L E A R N I N G 1: Collusion vs. self-interest
P Q \$0 140 5 130 10 120 15 110 20 100 25 90 30 80 35 70 40 60 45 50 Duopoly outcome with collusion: Each firm agrees to produce Q = 30, earns profit = \$900. If Cingular reneges on the agreement and produces Q = 40, what happens to the market price? Cingular’s profits? Is it in Cingular’s interest to renege on the agreement? If both firms renege and produce Q = 40, determine each firm’s profits. This exercise leads students to discover that each firm has an incentive to cheat on the agreement, causing a breakdown of the profit-maximizing cartel outcome. 8

A C T I V E L E A R N I N G 1: Answers
If both firms stick to agreement, each firm’s profit = \$900 If Cingular reneges on agreement and produces Q = 40: Market quantity = 70, P = \$35 Cingular’s profit = 40 x (\$35 – 10) = \$1000 Cingular’s profits are higher if it reneges. Verizon will conclude the same, so both firms renege, each produces Q = 40: Market quantity = 80, P = \$30 Each firm’s profit = 40 x (\$30 – 10) = \$800 P Q \$0 140 5 130 10 120 15 110 20 100 25 90 30 80 35 70 40 60 45 50

Collusion vs. Self-Interest
Both firms would be better off if both stick to the cartel agreement. But each firm has incentive to renege on the agreement. Lesson: It is difficult for oligopoly firms to form cartels and honor their agreements. CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

A C T I V E L E A R N I N G 2: The oligopoly equilibrium
P Q \$0 140 5 130 10 120 15 110 20 100 25 90 30 80 35 70 40 60 45 50 If each firm produces Q = 40, market quantity = 80 P = \$30 each firm’s profit = \$800 Is it in Cingular’s interest to increase its output further, to Q = 50? Is it in Verizon’s interest to increase its output to Q = 50? This exercise shows students that Q = 40 is the profit-maximizing output for each firm. In the previous exercise, students were instructed to find the new market price – an important intermediate step – before determining the effect on profit. In this exercise, the instructions do not ask students to determine the effect on market price. The intention is to see if they will remember to do this critical intermediate step themselves. 11

A C T I V E L E A R N I N G 2: Answers
P Q \$0 140 5 130 10 120 15 110 20 100 25 90 30 80 35 70 40 60 45 50 If each firm produces Q = 40, then each firm’s profit = \$800. If Cingular increases output to Q = 50: Market quantity = 90, P = \$25 Cingular’s profit = 50 x (\$25 – 10) = \$750 Cingular’s profits are higher at Q = 40 than at Q = 50. The same is true for Verizon. 12

The Equilibrium for an Oligopoly
Nash equilibrium: a situation in which economic participants interacting with one another each choose their best strategy given the strategies that all the others have chosen Our duopoly example has a Nash equilibrium in which each firm produces Q = 40. Given that Verizon produces Q = 40, Cingular’s best move is to produce Q = 40. Given that Cingular produces Q = 40, Verizon’s best move is to produce Q = 40. CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

A Comparison of Market Outcomes
When firms in an oligopoly individually choose production to maximize profit, Q is greater than monopoly Q but smaller than competitive market Q P is greater than competitive market P but less than monopoly P Our cell phone duopoly example demonstrates that the noncooperative oligopoly outcome falls in between the monopoly and competitive outcomes. CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

The Output & Price Effects
Increasing output has two effects on a firm’s profits: output effect: If P > MC, selling more output raises profits. price effect: Raising production increases market quantity, which reduces market price and reduces profit on all units sold. If output effect > price effect, the firm increases production. If price effect > output effect, the firm reduces production. CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

The Size of the Oligopoly
As the number of firms in the market increases, the price effect becomes smaller the oligopoly looks more and more like a competitive market P approaches MC the market quantity approaches the socially efficient quantity Example from the textbook: Suppose the U.S., Germany, and Japan each have two automakers: * Ford and GM in the U.S. * BMW and Mercedes in Germany * Honda and Toyota in Japan Without international trade in autos, each country has a duopoly. With international trade, the number of sellers competing with each other increases to six, which drives prices down toward marginal cost and increases the market quantity toward the socially efficient quantity. Another benefit of international trade: Trade increases the number of firms competing, increases Q, keeps P closer to marginal cost CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

Game Theory Game theory: the study of how people behave in strategic situations Dominant strategy: a strategy that is best for a player in a game regardless of the strategies chosen by the other players Prisoners’ dilemma: a “game” between two captured criminals that illustrates why cooperation is difficult even when it is mutually beneficial CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

Prisoners’ Dilemma Example
The police have caught Bonnie and Clyde, two suspected bank robbers, but only have enough evidence to imprison each for 1 year. The police question each in separate rooms, offer each the following deal: If you confess and implicate your partner, you go free. If you do not confess but your partner implicates you, you get 20 years in prison. If you both confess, each gets 8 years in prison. CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

Prisoners’ Dilemma Example
Confessing is the dominant strategy for both players. Nash equilibrium: both confess Bonnie’s decision Confess Remain silent Bonnie gets 8 years Bonnie gets 20 years Confess Clyde gets 8 years Clyde goes free Clyde’s decision This slide is animated carefully as follows: 1) If Clyde confesses, then Bonnie gets 8 years if she confesses or 20 years if she does not. 2) If Clyde remains silent, Bonnie goes free if she confesses or gets 1 year if she does not. At this point, it may be worth mentioning that Bonnie’s best move is to confess, regardless of Clyde’s decision – hence, “confess” is Bonnie’s dominant strategy. 3) If Bonnie confesses, Clyde gets 8 years if he confesses or 20 years if he does not. 4) If Bonnie remains silent, Clyde goes free if he confesses or gets 1 year if he does not. Regardless of Bonnie’s decision, Clyde’s best move is to confess. Both players have a dominant strategy of confessing. Bonnie goes free Bonnie gets 1 year Remain silent Clyde gets 20 years Clyde gets 1 year CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

Prisoners’ Dilemma Example
Outcome: Bonnie and Clyde both confess, each gets 8 years in prison. Both would have been better off if both remained silent. But even if Bonnie and Clyde had agreed before being caught to remain silent, the logic of self-interest takes over and leads them to confess. The prisoners’ dilemma illustrates why cooperation is so difficult even when it is in both players’ mutual interest. CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

Oligopolies as a Prisoners’ Dilemma
When oligopolies form a cartel in hopes of reaching the monopoly outcome, they become players in a prisoners’ dilemma. Our earlier example: Cingular and Verizon are duopolists in Smalltown. The cartel outcome maximizes profits: Each firm agrees to serve Q = 30 customers. Here is the “payoff matrix” for this example… The term “payoff matrix” is fairly standard in microeconomics, so it may be worth mentioning to your students. However, the textbook does not use this term, so you may wish to delete it from this presentation. If so, please note that the term appears in two different places in this presentation – once on this slide, and once on the bottom of the slide containing the instructions for Active Learning 3. CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

Cingular & Verizon in the Prisoners’ Dilemma
Each firm’s dominant strategy: renege on agreement, produce Q = 40. Cingular Q = 30 Q = 40 Cingular’s profit = \$900 Cingular’s profit = \$1000 Q = 30 Verizon’s profit = \$900 Verizon’s profit = \$750 Verizon Cingular’s profit = \$750 Cingular’s profit = \$800 Q = 40 Verizon’s profit = \$1000 Verizon’s profit = \$800 CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

A C T I V E L E A R N I N G 3: The “fare wars” game
The players: American Airlines and United Airlines The choice: cut fares by 50% or leave fares alone. If both airlines cut fares, each airline’s profit = \$400 million If neither airline cuts fares, each airline’s profit = \$600 million If only one airline cuts its fares, its profit = \$800 million the other airline’s profits = \$200 million Draw the payoff matrix, find the Nash equilibrium. The title I have given this game (the “fare wars” game) kind of tips off what will happen in the Nash equilibrium. 23

A C T I V E L E A R N I N G 3: Answers
Nash equilibrium: both firms cut fares American Airlines Cut fares Don’t cut fares \$400 million \$200 million Cut fares United Airlines \$400 million \$800 million Understanding the Nash equilibrium: Consider American’s decision. If United cuts fares, American is better off cutting fares (profit = \$400) rather than not cutting fares (profit = \$200). If United doesn’t cut fares, American is better off cutting fares than not. Hence, cutting fares is American’s dominant strategy. United is is the same position: cutting fares is the dominant strategy. So, in the Nash equilibrium, both airlines cut their fares and a fare war ensures, even though both firms would have higher profits if neither cut its fares. This game illustrates why fare wars (or, more generally, price wars) are so common. \$800 million \$600 million Don’t cut fares \$200 million \$600 million 24

Other Examples of the Prisoners’ Dilemma

Other Examples of the Prisoners’ Dilemma
Arms race between military superpowers Each country would be better off if both disarm, but each has a dominant strategy of arming. Common resources All would be better off if everyone conserved common resources, but each person’s dominant strategy is overusing the resources. CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

Prisoners’ Dilemma and Society’s Welfare
The noncooperative oligopoly equilibrium bad for oligopoly firms: prevents them from achieving monopoly profits good for society: Q is closer to the socially efficient output P is closer to MC In other prisoners’ dilemmas, the inability to cooperate may reduce social welfare. e.g., arms race, overuse of common resources In the arms race “game,” each of the superpowers would be better off if they could cooperate and sign an agreement to disarm. But the logic of self-interest dictates that each country will arm itself to the teeth. As a result, both countries are worse off for two reasons: 1) the risk of nuclear annihilation is higher 2) resources consumed in the arms race could have been used elsewhere CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

Why People Sometimes Cooperate
When the game is repeated many times, cooperation may be possible. Strategies which may lead to cooperation: If your rival reneges in one round, you renege in all subsequent rounds. “Tit-for-tat” Whatever your rival does in one round (whether renege or cooperate), you do in the following round. CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

Public Policy Toward Oligopolies
Recall one of the Ten Principles from Chap.1: Governments can sometimes improve market outcomes. In oligopolies, production is too low and prices are too high, relative to the social optimum. Role for policymakers: promote competition, prevent cooperation to move the oligopoly outcome closer to the efficient outcome. CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

Restraint of Trade and Antitrust Laws
Sherman Antitrust Act (1890): forbids collusion between competitors Clayton Antitrust Act (1914): strengthened rights of individuals damaged by anticompetitive arrangements between firms If you’re so inclined, this might be a good place to mention the infamous phone call in which Robert Crandall, CEO of American Airlines, tried to convince Braniff’s CEO Howard Putnam to raise fares 20%. If you can dig up a transcript of the conversation to read in class (try a simple Google search), students will find it interesting: it has lots of curse words. CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

Controversies Over Antitrust Policy
Most people agree that price-fixing agreements among competitors should be illegal. Some economists are concerned that policymakers go too far when using antitrust laws to stifle business practices that are not necessarily harmful, and may have legitimate objectives. We consider three such practices… CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

1. Resale Price Maintenance (“Fair Trade”)
Occurs when a manufacturer imposes lower limits on the prices retailers can charge. Is often opposed because it appears to reduce competition at the retail level. Yet, any market power the manufacturer has is at the wholesale level; manufacturers do not gain from restricting competition at the retail level. The practice has a legitimate objective: preventing discount retailers from free-riding on the services provided by full-service retailers. As I prepare this PowerPoint, I am shopping for a home theater sound system. My experience is relevant to this slide, and students have have had similar experiences when shopping for stereo components, computers, or other products. I visited a local store to check out different brands and models. The salesman at this store is very knowledgeable, and the store provided several comfortable, sound-proofed rooms where I could spend as much time as I wanted “auditioning” the various components without the intrusion of outside noise. Based on this shopping experience, I have selected a particular model made by Denon, a high-end brand that you really have to hear to appreciate. Now that I have decided on a brand and model, my incentive is to buy from a discount retailer. If I do, the discount retailer is, in effect, free-riding off of the full-service retailer I visited. If all consumers used the full-service retailers only for information, and then purchased from discount superstores, then full-service retailers would all go out of business. Denon knows this. They also know that consumers are less likely to choose their equipment over cheaper brands if consumers do not have the opportunity to hear how great Denon’s gear sounds. So, to prevent discount retailers from driving full-service retailers out of business, Denon engages in a variation of the “fair trade” practice discussed on this slide: Denon only honors its warranty if the consumer purchased the product from an “authorized retailer.” For a retailer to be “authorized,” it must agree to sell Denon’s products at prices not lower than Denon specifies. I can find unauthorized retailers who will sell me Denon gear at lower prices, but Denon’s practice of not honoring the warranty gives me an incentive to pay a few extra bucks to buy it from an “authorized” seller of Denon products. CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

2. Predatory Pricing Occurs when a firm cuts prices to prevent entry or drive a competitor out of the market, so that it can charge monopoly prices later. Illegal under antitrust laws, but hard for the courts to determine when a price cut is predatory and when it is competitive & beneficial to consumers. Many economists doubt that predatory pricing is a rational strategy: It involves selling at a loss, which is extremely costly for the firm. It can backfire. Regarding the last two points: Predatory pricing requires selling products below cost, generating losses. The firm must have deep pockets to sustain such losses and survive until its competitor leaves the market. Afterward, there is no guarantee that the economic profits from charging the monopoly price will make up for the losses sustained during the period of predatory pricing. Suppose a firm engages in predatory pricing and sustains deep losses for a period of time, but succeeds in driving its competitor out of business. Even then, the pressure is not off – a potential entrant may be standing by, ready to jump into the market to take a share of the monopoly profits the firm would otherwise enjoy all to itself. If so, then the firm is less likely to recover the losses it endures while it is engaging in predatory pricing. Economists have done a fair amount of research on predatory pricing, and there is not yet any consensus. Until there is, it might not be a good idea to prosecute predatory pricing under the antitrust laws. CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

3. Tying Occurs when a manufacturer bundles two products together and sells them for one price (e.g., Microsoft including a browser with its operating system) Critics argue that tying gives firms more market power by connecting weak products to strong ones. Others counter that tying cannot change market power: Buyers are not willing to pay more for two goods together than for the goods separately. Firms may use tying for price discrimination, which is not illegal, and which sometimes increases economic efficiency. CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

CONCLUSION Oligopolies can end up looking like monopolies or like competitive markets, depending on the number of firms and how cooperative they are. The prisoners’ dilemma shows how difficult it is for firms to maintain cooperation, even when doing so is in their best interest. Policymakers use the antitrust laws to regulate oligopolists’ behavior. The proper scope of these laws is the subject of ongoing controversy. CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

CHAPTER SUMMARY Oligopolists can maximize profits if they form a cartel and act like a monopolist. Yet, self-interest leads each oligopolist to a higher quantity and lower price than under the monopoly outcome. The larger the number of firms, the closer will be the quantity and price to the levels that would prevail under competition. CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

CHAPTER SUMMARY The prisoners’ dilemma shows that self-interest can prevent people from cooperating, even when cooperation is in their mutual interest. The logic of the prisoners’ dilemma applies in many situations. Policymakers use the antitrust laws to prevent oligopolies from engaging in anticompetitive behavior such as price-fixing. But the application of these laws is sometimes controversial. CHAPTER OLIGOPOLY

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