Economics

The assumptions of Marshall’s model create certain consequences for firms in perfectly competitive industries. One of the most important of these is that firms have no power over the price that they can charge. This is because there are so many firms selling an identical product that if any one firm attempts to sell at a price higher than its competitors, it will sell nothing. This is virtually guaranteed because the consumer has perfect knowledge about the prices being asked by all firms. In this way the market price is determined by the collective interaction of all the firms and consumers, and each firm has to accept that one particular price is the price at which they can sell the product. They have to “take” the price, not make it.

IN CONTEXT

FOCUS

Markets and firms

KEY THINKER

Alfred Marshall (1842–1924)

BEFORE

1776 Adam Smith explains how large firms can lower unit costs through labor division.

1848 John Stuart Mill suggests that only large firms can adapt successfully to certain business changes, and that this can lead to the creation of natural monopolies.

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