The (In)efficiency of Perfect Price Discrimination

Jan 13 11:01 2018 Print This Article

I have always thought, and taught, that Perfect Price Discrimination leads to an efficient allocation of resources. I now think that is wrong. It only seems to work if we use partial equilibrium reasoning, for a single monopolist that practices PPD, holding constant consumers' income and the monopolist's Marginal Cost curve. It doesn't work in general equilibrium. And the easiest way to see this is to construct a counterexample where all consumption goods are produced by monopolists who practice PPD, while the labour market is perfectly competitive.

A PPD monopolist captures 99.99% of Consumers' Surplus by setting a different price for each apple for each consumer, that is 99.99% of that consumer's Willingness To Pay for that apple, down to where the marginal price equals the Marginal Cost of producing an extra apple. So the consumer buys all the apples up to the point where his marginal Willingness to Pay (Marginal Benefit) equals Marginal Cost, but is almost at the point of walking away from the deal and not buying any apples at all. It looks like it works to get an efficient allocation of resources (where Marginal Benefit equals Marginal Cost) if we think partial equilibrium.

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A Worthwhile Canadian Initiative

Group economics blog written by Canadian Economics professors and authors from the University of Laval, Carleton University, Richard Ivey School of Business, and Lakehead University

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