Introduction to Cost and Industry Structure
This module is the first of several modules that explore the theory of the firm. This theory explains that firms behave in much the same way as consumers behave. What does that mean? Let’s define what is meant by the firm. A firm (or business) combines inputs of labor, capital, land, and raw or finished component materials to produce outputs. If the firm is successful, the outputs are more valuable than the inputs. This activity of production goes beyond manufacturing (i.e., making things). It includes any process or service that creates value, including transportation, distribution, wholesale and retail sales. Production involves a number of important decisions that define the behavior of firms. These decisions include, but are not limited to:
- What product or products should the firm produce?
- How should the products be produced (i.e., what production process should be used)?
- How much output should the firm produce?
- What price should the firm charge for its products?
- How much labor should the firm employ?
The answers to these questions depend on the production and cost conditions facing each firm. The answers also depend on the structure of the market for the product(s) in question. Market structure is a multidimensional concept that involves how competitive the industry is. It is defined by questions such as these:
- How much market power does each firm in the industry possess?
- How similar is each firm’s product to the products of other firms in the industry?
- How difficult is it for new firms to enter the industry?
- Do firms compete on the basis of price, advertising, or other product differences?
Figure 7.2 illustrates the range of different market structures, which we will explore in Perfect Competition, Monopoly, and Monopolistic Competition and Oligopoly.