Monopolistic competition

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Monopolistic competition is a form of imperfect competition where many competing producers sell products that are differentiated from one another (that is, the products are substitutes, but, with differences such as branding, are not exactly alike). In monopolistic competition firms can behave like monopolies in the short-run, including using market power to generate profit. In the long-run, other firms enter the market and the benefits of differentiation decrease with competition; the market becomes more like perfect competition where firms cannot gain economic profit. However, in reality, if consumer rationality/innovativeness is low and heuristics is preferred, monopolistic competition can fall into natural monopoly, at the complete absence of government intervention.[1] At the presence of coercive government, monopolistic competition will fall into government-granted monopoly. Unlike perfect competition, the firm maintains spare capacity. Models of monopolistic competition are often used to model industries. Textbook examples of industries with market structures similar to monopolistic competition include restaurants, cereal, clothing, shoes, and service industries in large cities. The "founding father" of the theory of monopolistic competition was Edward Hastings Chamberlin in his pioneering book on the subject Theory of Monopolistic Competition (1933).[2] Joan Robinson also receives credit as an early pioneer on the concept.

Monopolistically competitive markets have the following characteristics:

  • There are many producers and many consumers in a given market, and no business has total control over the market price.
  • Consumers perceive that there are non-price differences among the competitors' products.
  • There are few barriers to entry and exit.[3]
  • Producers have a degree of control over price.

The long-run characteristics of a monopolistically competitive market are almost the same as in perfect competition, with the exception of monopolistic competition having heterogeneous products, and that monopolistic competition involves a great deal of non-price competition (based on subtle product differentiation). A firm making profits in the short run will break even in the long run because demand will decrease and average total cost will increase. This means in the long run, a monopolistically competitive firm will make zero economic profit. This gives the amount of influence over the market; because of brand loyalty, it can raise its prices without losing all of its customers. This means that an individual firm's demand curve is downward sloping, in contrast to perfect competition, which has a perfectly elastic demand schedule.


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