LeoGlossary: Monopoly

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A monopoly is a market structure in which a single seller or producer provides a product or service without any close substitutes. This gives the monopolist significant market power, allowing them to set prices higher and/or produce less output than would be the case under competition.

Monopolies can arise for a number of reasons, including:

  • Natural monopolies: Natural monopolies exist when it is more efficient for a single producer to provide a good or service than for multiple producers to compete. This is often the case for goods or services that require a large upfront investment, such as public utilities or telecommunications networks.
  • Government-created monopolies: Governments may create monopolies by granting exclusive rights to a single producer. This is often done to encourage innovation or to protect a domestic industry from foreign competition.
  • Predatory pricing: A firm may engage in predatory pricing to drive out competition and create a monopoly. This involves setting prices below cost in order to force competitors out of the market.


The five characteristics of a monopoly:

  • price maker
  • profit maximizer
  • high barriers to entry
  • single seller
  • price discrimination

History of Monopolies

The history of monopolies dates back to ancient times. In ancient Egypt, the pharaohs controlled all aspects of the economy, including the production and distribution of goods. In ancient Greece and Rome, governments also played a role in regulating monopolies.

In the Middle Ages, monopolies were often granted to guilds and other organizations. These monopolies were intended to protect the interests of the members of the guild or organization, but they also led to higher prices and lower quality goods for consumers.

In the 19th century, monopolies became more widespread in the United States and other industrialized countries. This was due to a number of factors, including the rise of large corporations, the development of new technologies, and the lack of government regulation.

Some of the most famous monopolies in American history include:

  • Standard Oil
  • American Tobacco Company
  • United States Steel Corporation
  • AT&T

These monopolies controlled a large share of their respective industries and had a significant impact on the economy.

In the early 20th century, the US government began to take action against monopolies. The Sherman Antitrust Act was passed in 1890 and the Clayton Antitrust Act was passed in 1914. These laws prohibited firms from engaging in anticompetitive practices, such as predatory pricing and collusion.

The government's antitrust efforts have helped to reduce the number of monopolies in the United States, but monopolies still exist. Some examples of modern monopolies include:

These companies have a significant impact on the economy and on consumers.

Monopolies can have a number of negative consequences for consumers, including higher prices, lower output, and reduced innovation. However, monopolies can also have some positive consequences, such as lower costs and greater efficiency.

Governments must weigh the costs and benefits of monopolies when deciding how to regulate them.

Governments often regulate monopolies in order to protect consumers. Some common regulations include:

  • Price controls: Governments may set price ceilings on monopolies in order to prevent them from charging excessive prices.
  • Antitrust laws: Antitrust laws prohibit firms from engaging in anticompetitive practices, such as predatory pricing and collusion.


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