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Equilibrium, allocative efficiency and total surplus

Total surplus is maximized in a market at equilibrium. In this video, we talk about why this is and the math behind this assertion. 

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  • blobby green style avatar for user aaronhaowenzheng
    Isn't Marginal Cost only equal to Supply in a perfectly competitive market?
    (5 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Viraj Thakur
    So...if someone can answer...

    Is the equilibrium basically the point where the total surplus is maximised? And that is the 'ideal' situation for all goods?

    edit: I somehow missed the description woops.
    (3 votes)
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  • leaf green style avatar for user Aarya
    1) At , I am wondering what the incentive is for PRODUCERS to produce more. It seems that the incentive for the CONSUMERS up to Q0 is that they are getting that surplus benefit (my second question is on this), but what is the incentive for PRODUCERS to produce units up to Q0?

    1b) Isn't deadweight loss really just loss of satisfaction that could have been gained by CONSUMERS, but not PRODUCERS? And when Sal says, "the benefit that our market is getting" (), doesn't "benefit" really just refer to benefit to consumers and has nothing to do with producers? This subquestion is due to my main question above.

    2) Secondly, is the following the case?:
    Total Satisfaction = Satisfaction paid for by consumers (area below yellow MC curve) + Satisfaction that is free/additional/"surplus"?

    Here is a detailed description of what I mean:
    Is the benefit to consumers (the area from the red marginal benefit curve to the Quantity axis) the total feeling of satisfaction they get (where part of that total satisfaction is due to them having paid for it [the area below the yellow marginal cost curve; in other words, the area of the benefit to consumers that is equal to the area of the opportunity cost] and the rest of the satisfaction [the area of the satisfaction that lies between the two curves; the triangular area] is free? And that the free satisfaction (triangle) (meaning the “consumer surplus”) is really the profit to the consumers because it is the part of the satisfaction that is free to them? That it is free, additional benefit that they don’t have to pay for aside from the rest of the satisfaction they pay for? Is that a correct understanding? Or are there any faults in that?

    (2 votes)
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    • hopper happy style avatar for user Isaac
      The incentive for producers to produce more is that they can get more money. Ultimately the producers are also the consumers and in order to consume products they will need to produce the means. Surplus benefit is the perceived value of the thing being produced to people who will forgo other opportunities to get ahold of it above and beyond the opportunity cost for producers to produce it. This means that for a price anywhere in between the opportunity cost of the producers and its perceived value to consumers will benefit them both. In theory, producers could charge anything up to the perceived value of the product, that is the demand curve. In a competitive market, however, if someone charges less than that for the same product, the real demand curve for your product will shift left. The opposite theoretical extreme would end up being that producers can only price their product just barely above its opportunity cost of production. In reality the cost will probably end up being somewhere in between. So the surplus benefit will be split between the producers and consumers: the producers will benefit from what they get paid beyond the opportunity cost, and the consumers from what they consider the product to be worth beyond what they pay. Now as producers produce more product, they will continue to be paid beyond their opportunity cost, so they will benefit from every extra unit they produce up to the equilibrium point. Remember that opportunity cost is the maximum satisfaction they could have earned from doing anything else besides making this particular product. As soon as they pass equilibrium point, however, consumers are no longer willing to fully incentivize them, because they themselves have better things to do with their money than continuing to buy so much of the product at so high a price as to outcompete everything else the producers could put their resources into. Deadweight loss could be due to producers not taking full advantage of their opportunities, which will also keep could-have-been opportunities from the consumers (this would be left of equilibrium). Right-side deadweight loss looks like it would only be sustainable if consumers continued to pay for a product that isn't worth the price to them, but I suppose that neither scenario will last for long. I hope that all this also provides an answer to your second question. I'm not clear on exactly what you mean enough to answer it directly.
      (1 vote)
  • leafers seedling style avatar for user Chahak Gupta
    At how is total surplus huge if the equilibrium price results in no surplus benefit to be had at ?
    (2 votes)
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    • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user Alex Martin
      My understanding is because the area between the demand (marginal benefit) and supply (marginal cost) initially produces large surplus benefit because of the big difference in the cost to the producer and the price the consumer is willing to pay. As more is produced consumers have smaller marginal benefits so are prepared to pay less. The total surplus is the area between the curves before equilibrium is met. For a producer it shows all of the profit they could potentially make, and on this graph the triangle is big and so there is a lot of total surplus (or profit). If both the lines were flatter, the area between them would be less, and the total surplus lower.
      (1 vote)
  • male robot hal style avatar for user Vinay Sharma
    I don't understand that in welfare economics why do policymakers just talk about the quantity and not the price? As you might have seen that we assert the equilibrium to be allocatively efficient just coz the mc=mb for that quantity. But why don't they talk about price? I think the general theme of the topic is which quantity maximizes the total well-being? Is it?
    (1 vote)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Sachin Sachin
    What does he mean when Sal says "benefit to the market" ?
    What does he refer to when he says "market"?
    (1 vote)
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Video transcript

- [Instructor] What we're going to do in this video is think about the market for chocolate and we're going to think about supply and demand curves, but we're going to get an intuition for them in a slightly different way. In particular for the demand curve we will think about the idea of marginal benefit. Now marginal benefit, when we're talking about margin it's really thinking about, well, what happens on the increment? What happens for each little extra that you do? So this is saying, what is the benefit that I get if I get a little bit more of, in this case, chocolate? Well, from the market's point of view, imagine if there was no chocolate, but there's people in the market who crave chocolate, who dream of chocolate. If all of a sudden they were able to get their hands on some chocolate, they would get a huge benefit for that incremental amount of chocolate. Maybe for these folks, their benefit, which we could quantify as, in terms of dollars, maybe their benefit is 50 dollars per pound. One way to think about it, they'd be willing to pay 50 dollars because they get that much benefit, or if they paid less than 50 dollars, let's say they paid 10 dollars for it, well then they're getting 40 dollars of extra benefit a kind of surplus of benefit from being able to get it at a price lower than their marginal benefit. But then let's say more chocolate becomes available. People still like it but some of that really deep need, that deep addiction for chocolate has been satiated, and so the marginal benefit tends for, in most markets, the marginal benefit tends to go down as quantity increases. One way to think about it, that first initial amount of quantity if you, so we have some small amount of quantity right over here, I'll say delta quantity. That first quantity, if you multiply it times the marginal benefit, well that gives you an area roughly of a rectangle like this, it's not quite rectangular at the top, it's more of a trapezoid if this is downward sloping, but you could approximate it as a rectangle. But either way, the area right over here, the area under the marginal benefit curve, you could think about this as, well, that's just the benefit that the market is getting from consuming this chocolate in this case. And so let's just continue on this trend. If there's more and more chocolate the market will get benefit from it, but people aren't as excited about it anymore. They're saying, oh, well, the chocolate's around, yeah, it'd be nice to have a little bit more, but I don't need so much more. And at some point people might be all chocolated out, and they have maybe even zero marginal benefit from that incremental amount of chocolate, chocolate has filled up the town, there's nowhere to actually put it. Now that won't always be the case, you might go someplace like that, but either way you think about it we would view this as our marginal benefit curve. And notice, this is exactly the same as a demand curve in the market for chocolate. We have plotted price versus quantity in the market for chocolate, but we've thought about it in terms of marginal benefit. Now on the supply side there's a related idea, we're going to think about marginal cost, marginal cost. So let's say at first there's no chocolate being produced in this market. And a savvy entrepreneur says, hey, I know some folks who are addicted to chocolate, they would get a lot of benefit from it, so I'm going to try to produce some chocolate. And they look around and they find out, hey, there's actually a derelict chocolate factory in town that no one is using and it's surrounded by these wild cocoa bushes that are perfect for chocolate. And there are some people in town who are actually unemployed, but they are amazing at producing chocolate. And so the first units of chocolate, the marginal cost to produce it is actually quite low. But once you utilize those folks, you utilize that derelict factory, you utilize those free cocoa bushes or whatever, cocoa trees, well then you've got to plant new ones, you've got to train new employees, you've got to build a new factory. And so to produce that next increment, well that's going to cost a little bit more and then a little bit more and then a little bit more, which is the general trend in most markets. Initially that first amount you produce in as cheap a way, using the low hanging fruit, as possible, but then you've got to go up the tree, find higher and higher fruit, maybe I'm mixing metaphors. But your cost, your marginal cost per unit goes higher and higher and higher. Now, what have we constructed here? Well you might say, hey, Sal, that's a marginal cost curve. But once again, this also could be viewed as the supply curve for this particular market. Now what is happening at these low quantities right over here? Well, the cost of production is, let's say they produce this delta Q amount, the cost of production would be the area right over here under the marginal cost curve, that would be the cost of production. But they're able to sell it, the benefit to the market I should say, would be the total area under this red curve, would be the benefit to the market, the total area under this curve. So if you have the total benefit to the market, you take out the cost, then what you have in between these curves, you could view this as a surplus, you could view this as a surplus of benefit right over here. So let me write this down, this is surplus, and you won't hear this term but I like to use it, because it makes it intuitive on what we're talking about, this is surplus benefit. So as long as there's surplus benefit the suppliers are going to say, hey, wow, I can produce this cheaply, people have a, people get a lot of benefit for it, they'd be definitely willing to pay 10 dollars a pound wherever I am. If people are getting this much benefit, they're definitely going to be willing to pay 10 dollars for it. So I'm going to produce some, or actually I'm going to produce some and I could even charge, I could charge anywhere in between these areas. Maybe I could charge right over here and I get some of the benefit and then the consumers get some of the benefit. But then another maybe entrepreneur realizes, hey, well, there's more benefit to be had in this market, so they keep producing, they keep producing as long as there is benefit here, as long as the marginal benefit is higher than the marginal cost, all the way until we get to that point right over here. Now what happens, what happens right over here? Well we talked about just supply and demand, we talk about that's an efficient price and efficient quantity, but let's just think about, we said up until this point it makes sense to produce more and more and more. Even this increment, if we're already at this quantity, it makes sense to produce even a little bit more because you're going to have this cost, you're going to have this cost to incur, but then the market could have all of this, the market could have all of this benefit, which is larger than the cost. And so you say, well, as long as I sell it for something in between we can split that surplus benefit, so to speak. But once these two lines intersect and we have the situation where our marginal benefit, marginal benefit, is equal to our marginal cost, well at that point there is no surplus benefit now to be had, there's no really incentive to produce more than this. Beyond this point, your incremental cost of production, your marginal cost is higher than your marginal benefit. So, if you actually wanted to give it to someone for their benefit, you would be taking a loss. Or even if you just think about the market itself, the society would be incurring more incremental cost per unit than they would be getting of benefit, so why even do it? And so this point right over here where these two lines, these two curves intersect and we've talked about this with just supply and demand, but when we think about it in terms of marginal benefit and marginal cost, we think about this quantity right over here, let's just call it Q subzero, this quantity is considered allocatively efficient, allocatively efficient. Which is a very fancy word, allocatively efficient. Why is that the case? Well, any other quantity would not be efficient. For example, let's say for some reason we were at this quantity right over here, let's say Q, Q one. Well what happens at this quantity right over here? Well, at this quantity, at this quantity right over here, the marginal benefit is higher than the marginal cost. Marginal benefit is greater than the marginal cost. And so we're leaving a bunch of stuff on the table, the market is leaving a bunch of surplus benefit, you could say total surplus, on the table. And so this benefit that the market could have had, but it does not get, this is called a deadweight loss, deadweight loss, and we talk about it in other videos. Remember, in the allocatively efficient quantity we have this huge total surplus, which is the area under the marginal benefit curve and above the marginal cost curve up until the point of intersection. But if you do a quantity less than that allocatively efficient quantity, your marginal benefit is higher than your marginal cost, and you are leaving, you are leaving all of this total surplus on the table, regardless of how you would have actually allocated it or distributed it between the consumers or the producers. And what if you produced a quantity larger than the allocatively efficient quantity? Once again, very fancy word, so let's say that's Q two, what happens over here? Well, here you're able to take advantage of all of this surplus right over here, this total surplus right over here, but now you're creating negative surplus. So, in this part, now all of this area shows a net negative benefit, or a net I guess I should say a net cost that our market is incurring. And so this here it was a deadweight loss because we were leaving stuff on the table that we could have had. Here we're producing at a cost that our market, not just our suppliers are producing at a cost, the benefit our market is getting is less for each incremental unit, is less than, or is far less than the cost and so we are incurring a net negative total surplus. And so this, too, would be considered, this, too, would be considered a dead, let me write that in a color you can see, a deadweight loss. Deadweight loss we often assume it was, hey, we're leaving some total surplus on the table, but we also have deadweight loss in the case where we are producing unnecessarily because the benefit is less than the actual cost. And so whether our marginal benefit is greater than our marginal cost, or in this case our marginal cost is greater than our marginal benefit, we are going to produce deadweight loss in either situation. And a properly functioning market should be producing the quantity that is allocatively efficient. In an ideal world and of course all of our models assume a lot of assumptions to make things a little bit cleaner, so we can do lines to describe market behavior.