Sunday, August 23, 2009

Albert O. Hirschman, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Chapter 5, "How Monopoly Can Be Comforted by Competition"

Economists' usual concern about monopolies is exploitation: they can limit production to maximize profit. Competition is an effective remedy for this problem. But another issue with monopolies is their potential for slack and decay. In this case exit may comfort a monopolist by relieving it of ts most burdensome customers (thus defusing the potential of voice to remedy the monopolist's deficiencies).

"Lazy" monopolists who welcome exit are found frequently when their market is based on location and a significant disparity in mobility exists between the majority of customers and the more quality-sensitive minority.

Sometimes monopolies can even promote selective exit. Hirschman's example here is from autocratic South American governments which encourage exile for political dissidents. He notes the consequences of this situation by comparing the autocratic politics of Latin America with the consensus-driven politics of Japan, where exit has been made more difficult by geography and a lack of destinations in which an exile could easily assimilate.

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