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Factor markets diverge from perfect competition whenever buyers and/or sellers are price setters rather than price takers. A firm that is the sole purchaser of a factor is a monopsony. The distinguishing feature of the application of the marginal decision rule to monopsony is that the MFC of the factor exceeds its price. Less of the factor is used than would be the case if the factor were demanded by many firms. The price paid by the monopsony firm is determined from the factor supply curve; it is less than the competitive price would be. The lower quantity and lower price that occur in a monopsony factor market arise from features of the market that are directly analogous to the higher product price and lower product quantity chosen in monopoly markets. A price floor (e.g., a minimum wage) can induce a monopsony to increase its use of a factor.
Sellers can also exercise power to set price. A factor can be sold by a monopoly firm, which is likely to behave in a way that corresponds to the monopoly model.
When there are a large number of sellers, they may band together in an organization that seeks to exert a degree of market power on their behalf. Workers (sellers of labor), for example, have organized unions to seek better wages and working conditions. This goal can be accomplished by restricting the available supply or by increasing the demand for labor. When a union represents all of a monopsony firm’s workers, a bilateral monopoly exists. A bilateral monopoly results in a kind of price-setters’ standoff, in which the firm seeks a low wage and the union a high one.
Professional associations may seek to improve the economic position of their members by supporting legislation that reduces supply or raises demand. Some agricultural producers join producers’ cooperatives to exert some power over price and output. Agricultural cooperatives must be authorized by Congress; otherwise, they would violate laws against collusion in the marketplace.
Suppose a firm faces the following supply schedule for labor by unskilled workers:
|Wage per day||Number of workers|
|Number of workers||Output per day|
Compute the schedules for the firm’s marginal product and marginal revenue product curves, assuming the price of the good the firm produces is $1 and that the firm operates in a perfectly competitive product market.
Suppose that the market for cranberries is perfectly competitive and that the price is $4 per pound. Suppose that an increase in demand for cranberries raises the price to $6 per pound in a matter of a few weeks.
Again, consider the market for cranberries. The industry is perfectly competitive and the price of cranberries is $4 per pound. Suppose a reduction in the cost of obtaining water reduces the variable and average total cost by $1 per pound at all output levels.
A single firm is the sole purchaser of labor in its market. It faces a supply curve given by q = (1/4)w + 1,000, where q is hours of work supplied per day, and w is the hourly wage.