By Dominich Armentano
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The economic world, unlike the pure mathemati cal model in which price can be parametric, does not contain the “infinitely small steps” of the calculus or limit. Output adjustments, even small ones, are nonetheless discrete changes, and must have some noticable effect on prices. 1 Prices in openly competitive markets may tend to remain stable even though there are “small” increases in supply. But this observation does not demonstrate that individual demand functions are perfectly horizontal or that sellers have no influence on market price.
As a leading microtheorist puts it: . . in the theory of a market economy pure competition tends to lead toward the set of conditions defining maximum economic welfare or well-being, given the distribution of income. The actual performance of the economy can then be appraised against its potential ‘best’ performance. Imperfectly competitive or monopolistic forces are important in preventing the attainment of the 'best' allocation and use of economic resources. Thus, the purely competitive model frequently is used as the basis for public regulation of imperfectly competitive situations.
But as with the achievement of any econ omy in the use of resources, such circumstances are never to be regretted, and certainly not from any consumer perspective. If consumers want more com petition between products they are always free to increase their patronage of the higher-cost, higher-priced sellers; indeed, consumers in legally open mar kets should have all the competitors they are willing to pay for. On the other hand, if advertising tends to raise costs and prices, then it could hardly act as a barrier to entry or to competition.