Econ 201 Spring 2009 Game Theory & Natural Monopolies


Econ 201 Spring 2009

Game Theory & Natural Monopolies

Game Theory

Game theory

is a methodology that can be used to analyze both cooperative and non-cooperative oligopolies.

– Recognizes the


actions of the firms’

Determining the Dominate Strategy

• A dominant strategy occurs when one strategy is best for a player

regardless of the rival’s actions.

Dominate strategy equilibrium

neither player has reason to change their actions because they are pursuing the strategy that is optimal under all circumstances.

Multiple Equilibria

• There are come cases where there are multiple Nash equilibria.

– In this case, the outcome is uncertain.

– Firms will have an incentive to collude.

Prisoner's Dilemma

• A prisoner’s dilemma occurs when the dominate strategy leads all players to an undesired outcome.

Figure 12.9

Prisoners’ Dilemma

Firm Collusion

• In some situations, firms can improve on the outcome if they collude rather than compete.

Natural Monopolies

natural monopoly

– one firm can produce a desired output at a lower social cost more firms — • that is, there are economies of scale in



than two or • It is the assertion about an


, that multiple firms providing a good or service is less efficient than if a single firm provided a good or service. • A normative claim which is used to justify the creation of statutory monopolies , where government prohibits competition by law.

• Examples of claimed natural monopolies include railways , telecommunications competition.

[3] , [4] , water services , electricity , and mail delivery . • Some claim that the theory is a flawed rationale for state prohibition of • An industry is said to be a

natural monopoly monopoly

) if only one firm is able to


monopolist. " [1] output expands (i.e. economies of scale in (also called


in the long run, – even in the absence of legal regulations or "predatory" measures by the It is said that this is the result of high fixed costs of entering an industry which causes long run average costs to decline as



Market Conditions for a Natural Monopoly

• Scale is such that it is cost-efficient for only 1 firm to supply the market, i.e., economies of scale

The Regulator’s Dilemma

• A couple of alternatives: – No regulation • Firm will price like a monopolist – Set price at ATC • Rate-of-return regulation: sets utility’s prices based on cost-of-service

What are the Consequences?

• Do nothing – Firm chooses Q at the point where MR = MC • Less than perfect competition – Sets Price > MC • Higher than perfect competition – Higher price and lower Q => deadweight loss

What are the Consequences

• Set price at ATC – Since ATC is falling => MC < ATC – And P = ATC > MC • Still producing too little – would like P= MC at Q*

The European Approach

• Assuming LRAC is still falling – Set P = MC – Subsidize the difference between ATC and P

Regulatory responses

• doing nothing • setting legal limits on the firm's behaviour, either directly or through a regulatory agency • setting up competition


the market (franchising) • setting up common carrier • setting up surrogate competition ("yardstick" competition or benchmarking ) type competition • requiring companies to be (or remain) quoted on the stock market • public ownership • Since the 1980s there is a global trend towards utility deregulation , in which systems of competition are intended to replace regulation by specifying or limiting firms' behaviour; the telecommunications industry is a leading example globally.

Telecommunications – an Example

• • • Natural monopolies tend to be associated with industries where there is a high ratio of fixed to variable costs. – fixed costs of establishing a national distribution network for a product might be enormous, but the marginal (variable) cost of supplying extra units of output may be very small. – average total cost will continue to decline as the scale of production increase, because fixed (or overhead) costs are being spread over higher and higher levels of output The

telecommunications industry

has in the past been considered to be a natural monopoly. Like railways and water provision, – existence of several companies supplying the same area would result in an inefficient multiplication of cables, transformers, pipelines etc. – perception of what constitutes a natural monopoly is now changing – • new technology reduces traditional barriers to entry within markets.

telecommunications industry

– in the UK, British Telecom has faced increasing levels of competition from new telecommunications service providers during the 1990s - not least the rapid expansion of




services. T – this has led to a change in the role of the industry - but a

industry regulator

(OFTEL). Its main role now is not necessarily the introduction of even more competition into the telecommunications

policing role to ensure fair competition between service providers.