Front Page Titles (by Subject) 2: The Economic Effects of Isolated Monopolies - Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
2: The Economic Effects of Isolated Monopolies - Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis 
Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, trans. J. Kahane, Foreword by F.A. Hayek (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
The Economic Effects of Isolated Monopolies
Whether the monopolist can exploit his position at all depends on the shape of the demand curve of the monopolized commodity and on the costs of producing the marginal unit of the commodity at the existing scale of production. Only when the conditions are such that the sale of a smaller quantity at higher prices yields a greater net profit than the sale of a larger quantity at lower prices, is it possible to apply the specific principle of monopolistic policy.31 But even then it is applied only if the monopolist fails to find a method of securing still higher profits. The monopolist serves his interests best if he can separate buyers into classes according to their purchasing power, for he can then exploit the purchasing power of each class separately and exact the highest prices from its members. Railways and other transport undertakings, which grade their tariffs according to what the traffic will bear are in this class. If, following the general method of monopolists, they treated all users of transport uniformly, those less able to pay would be excluded from transport and for those able to stand higher charges transport would be cheapened. The effect of this on the local distribution of industry is clear; amongst the factors determining the localization of individual industries the transport factor would make itself felt in a different way.
In examining the economic effect of monopoly, we must limit investigation to the type which restricts the production of its commodity. Now the result of this restriction is not that less is produced quantitatively. Capital and labour, set free by the restriction of production, must find employment in other production. For in the long run in the free economy there is neither unemployed capital nor unemployed labour. Thus against the smaller production of the monopolized goods one must set the increased production of other goods. But these, of course, are less important goods, which would not have been produced and consumed if the more pressing demands for a larger quantity of the monopolized commodity could have been satisfied. The difference between the value of these goods and the higher value of the quantity of the monopolized commodity not produced represents the loss of welfare which the monopoly has inflicted on the national economy. Here private profit and social productivity are at variance. A social society under such circumstances would act differently from a capitalist society.
It has sometimes been pointed out that although the monopoly can prove harmful to the consumer it might, on the other hand, be turned to his advantage. Monopoly could produce more cheaply because it eliminates all the expenses of competition and because, being adapted to large scale operations it enjoys all advantages of the division of labour. But this in no wise alters the fact that monopoly deflects production from more important products to less important ones. It may be as the defender of trusts is fond of repeating, that the monopolist, unable to increase his profit otherwise, endeavours to improve productive technique, but it is difficult to understand why the urge to this should be greater in him than in the competitive producer. Even if this be admitted, however, it does not alter what we have said about the social effects of monopoly.
[31. ]Compare on this important principle the large literature on the monopoly price. For example, Wieser, “Theorie der gesellschaftlichen Wirtschaft,” in Grundriss für Sozialökonomik, Part I (Tübingen, 1914), p. 276.