Perfect competition

In economics, specifically general equilibrium theory, a perfect market is defined by several idealizing conditions, collectively called perfect competition. In theoretical models where conditions of perfect competition hold, it has been theoretically demonstrated that a market will reach an equilibrium in which the quantity supplied for every product or service, including labor, equals the quantity demanded at the current price. This equilibrium will be a Pareto optimum, meaning that nobody can be made better off by exchange without making someone else worse off.

Perfect competition provides both allocative efficiency and productive efficiency:

The theory of perfect competition has its roots in late-19th century economic thought. Léon Walras gave the first rigorous definition of perfect competition and derived some of its main results. In the 1950s, the theory was further formalized by Kenneth Arrow and Gérard Debreu. Real markets are never perfect. Those economists who believe that in perfect competition as a useful approximation to real markets may classify those as ranging from close-to-perfect to very imperfect. Share and foreign exchange markets are commonly said to be the most similar to the perfect market. The real estate market is an example of a very imperfect market. In such markets, the theory of the second best proves that if one optimality condition in an economic model cannot be satisfied, it is possible that the next-best solution involves changing other variables away from the values that would otherwise be optimal.

There is a set of market conditions which are assumed to prevail in the discussion of what perfect competition might be if it were theoretically possible to ever obtain such perfect market conditions. These conditions include:

In a perfect market the sellers operate at zero economic surplus: sellers make a level of return on investment known as normal profits.

Normal profit is a component of (implicit) costs and not a component of business profit at all. It represents the opportunity cost, as the time that the owner spends running the firm could be spent on running a different firm. The enterprise component of normal profit is thus the profit that a business owner considers necessary to make running the business worth her or his while i.e. it is comparable to the next best amount the entrepreneur could earn doing another job. Particularly if enterprise is not included as a factor of production, it can also be viewed a return to capital for investors including the entrepreneur, equivalent to the return the capital owner could have expected (in a safe investment), plus compensation for risk. In other words, the cost of normal profit varies both within and across industries; it is commensurate with the riskiness associated with each type of investment, as per the risk-return spectrum.

This page was last edited on 11 February 2018, at 16:27.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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