Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No money left on the street

I recall I also rant much about smuggling in this blog. Why do people smuggle? Because they can. Or more precisely, because they would be a fool not to grab the opportunity in front of their nose. Let's continue our story. (I'm not gonna talk directly about smuggling, but hopefully you get the idea -- and yes, I'm going to greatly simplify again).

Suppose that there are many Yous and Brothers. What would happen? The Brothers would learn that they can be better off if they switch from selling newspapers to selling oranges. Say a fraction of this group migrate to the orange market. What would happen to the retail price of an orange? Very likely, it will decrease due to increasing number . As a consequence, the (accounting) profit also goes down. What would it be in the newspaper market? It is the opposite: as people leave the business, the remaining incumbents will be able to increase the retail price of the newspaper; and hence bigger accounting profits.

It is easy to imagine that the "migration" will stop when the profits in the two different places converge. Let's say, this happens when the "accounting profit" in the orange market and in the newspaper market is Rp 50,000. Don't forget, that is accounting profit. What is the economic profit? Right, it's zero! In the equilibrium, when the market is not distorted, the economic profit is zero everywhere. In other words, every potentials have been exploited (and that equilibrium is called optimum). Or, put it differently, no money left on the street.

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