By Roger Perman, John Scouller
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Some good, alternative presentations of the theory of competitive markets may be found in Parkin and King (1995, chapter 11), Baumol and Blinder (1991, chapter 2) and Lipsey and Chrystal (1999, chapter 9). William Baumolin his theory of contestable marketsargues that potential entry into a market is, in some circumstances, sufficient to bring about the perfectly competitive market price/output outcome. This argument is developed in Baumol et al. (1982). It is also explained in Tirole (1989), which also contains an excellent (but technically quite advanced) analysis of competitive markets.
The way in which this is done will be explained more fully in subsequent chapters, but it will be instructive to briefly sketch out the argument. In a market economy, producers will offer goods at prices denominated in terms of money. Producers seek a price at least equal to the input costs of the commodity. 1. 1 Some special cases of elasticity of supply Description of elasticity Numerical magnitude of PES Shape of supply curve Perfectly elastic Infinity Horizontal Elastic Between 1 and infinity Upward sloping Unit elasticity 1 Upward sloping Inelastic Between 0 and 1 Upward sloping Perfectly inelastic 0 Vertical One interesting result is that if the supply curve is linear (that is, it is a straight line when drawn on a diagram showing price and quantity) and the supply curve passes through the origin (that is, the point where price and quantity are both zero), elasticity of supply will always be one in numerical value.
Clearly, sustainable profits are possible in this context even when, to a dispassionate observer, close substitutes are readily available. It is to the analysis of monopoly that we turn in the next chapter. Conclusions Firms in perfectly competitive markets may temporarily enjoy above-normal profitability, but the competitive process itself, principally the process of searching for profit opportunities leading to new entry into attractive markets, is continuously eliminating these profits. This, of course, is the paradox of competitive markets.