- Competition (economics)
Competition in economics is a term that encompasses the notion of individuals and firms striving for a greater share of a market to sell or buy goods and services. Merriam-Webster defines competition in business as "the effort of two or more parties acting independently to secure the business of a third party by offering the most favorable terms." It was described by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations (1776) and later economists as allocating productive resources to their most highly-valued uses. and encouraging efficiency. Later microeconomic theory distinguished between perfect competition and imperfect competition, concluding that no system of resource allocation is more Pareto efficient than perfect competition. Competition, according to the theory, causes commercial firms to develop new products, services and technologies, which would give consumers greater selection and better products. The greater selection typically causes lower prices for the products, compared to what the price would be if there was no competition (monopoly) or little competition (oligopoly).
Competition in practice
Competition is seen as a state which produces gains for the whole economy, through promoting consumer sovereignty. It may also lead to wasted (duplicated) effort and to increased costs (and prices) in some circumstances. In a small number of goods and services, the cost structure means that competition may be inefficient. These situations are known as natural monopoly and are usually publicly provided or tightly regulated. The most common example is water supplies.
Three levels of economic competition have been classified:
- The most narrow form is direct competition (also called category competition or brand competition), where products that perform the same function compete against each other. For example, a brand of pick-up trucks competes with several different brands of pick-up trucks. Sometimes two companies are rivals and one adds new products to their line so that each company distributes the same thing and they compete.
- The next form is substitute competition, where products that are close substitutes for one another compete. For example, butter competes with margarine, mayonnaise, and other various sauces and spreads.
- The broadest form of competition is typically called budget competition. Included in this category is anything that the consumer might want to spend their available money (the so-called discretionary income) on. For example, a family that has $20,000 available may choose to spend it on many different items, which can all be seen as competing with each other for the family's available money.
Competition does not necessarily have to be between companies. For example, business writers sometimes refer to "internal competition". This is competition within companies. The idea was first introduced by Alfred Sloan at General Motors in the 1920s. Sloan deliberately created areas of overlap between divisions of the company so that each division would be competing with the other divisions. For example, the Chevy division would compete with the Pontiac division for some market segments. Also, in 1931, Procter & Gamble initiated a deliberate system of internal brand versus brand rivalry. The company was organized around different brands, with each brand allocated resources, including a dedicated group of employees willing to champion the brand. Each brand manager was given responsibility for the success or failure of the brand and was compensated accordingly. This form of competition thus pitted a brand against another brand. Finally, most businesses also encourage competition between individual employees. An example of this is a contest between sales representatives. The sales representative with the highest sales (or the best improvement in sales) over a period of time would gain benefits from the employer.
It should also be noted that business and economic competition in most countries is often limited or restricted. Competition often is subject to legal restrictions. For example, competition may be legally prohibited as in the case with a government monopoly or a government-granted monopoly. Tariffs, subsidies or other protectionist measures may also be instituted by government in order to prevent or reduce competition. Depending on the respective economic policy, the pure competition is to a greater or lesser extent regulated by competition policy and competition law. Competition between countries is quite subtle to detect, but is quite evident in the World economy, where countries the US, Japan, the constituents of the European Union, China and the East Asian Tigers each try to outdo the other in the quest for economic supremacy in the global market, harkening to the concept of Kiasuism. Such competition is evident by the policies undertaken by these countries to educate the future workforce. For example, East Asian economies like Singapore, Japan and South Korea tend to emphasize education by allocating a large portion of the budget to this sector, and by implementing programmes such as gifted education, which some detractors criticise as indicative of academic elitism.
A practice is anti-competitive if it is deemed to unfairly distort free and effective competition in the marketplace. Examples include cartels, restrictive trading agreements, predatory pricing, and abuse of a dominant position.
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