I might be Florida Man now, but I’m not shimmying up a palm tree to find a palm frond to wipe my a–. This is a very technical subject. In the short-run, though, they don’t have a constant marginal cost, if only because the marginal cost of distribution and management/coordination would rise. Somebody in this long thread mentioned “economies of scale.” One must distinguish the short-run, when, by definition, the size of the plant is fixed and, consequently, marginal cost is always raising (except if the firm wants to maximize its losses); and the long-run, where, by definition, new plants can be built, and long-run marginal cost can conceivably (but not necessarily) be decreasing, which is the area of economies of scale, because indeed the scale of the plant changes. How many should I make? Since a profit-maximizing firm must always be producing where MC is increasing, then in order to produce more, they need to see higher prices. Supply and demand, in economics, relationship between the quantity of a commodity that producers wish to sell at various prices and the quantity that consumers wish to buy. Thus there is little incentive for firms to increase capacity because once the tp-mania wears off, there will be a significant decline in the demand for toilet paper as people use up their inventory. Thank you for the economic point. The commercial product is shipped on crates in individually wrapped rolls, rather than in brightly branded packs of 6 or 12. People use that rule when they are selling jewelry that retails for $10 or $1000 (it gets fudged a bit, but mostly because the artist don’t really have that great of a sense of what their input costs are, so they get roughly estimated). In fact, she’ll give them a discount that reflects her lower cost of production. This Graph Represents The Supply And Demand For Toilet Paper During The Covid Pandemic. (In the longer, the industry might have to bid up wages or the prices of other factors of production to divert them from other industries.) Manufacturers of toilet paper, tissues and hand sanitiser are boosting production to keep up with a surge in demand prompted by coronavirus concerns. This doesn’t make sense. As I said, I don’t disagree with the basic thrust of the article that we want producers free to be able to raise prices if they need to to respond to changes in demand. Or in my world, they built manufacturing capacity, but the drug doesn’t work, so demand is zero. Yes, that seems true. Firms that better work with middlemen grab market share from their competitors). Supply, demand, and COVID-19 Toilet paper shortages are temporary, but threats to the global supply chain could have longer-term effects. In economics, “cost” is something that takes place in the future, not the past. Dylan: The distinction between the short-run and the long-run is important. But workers are needed to monitor and maintain the mill and all of its machines, as well as to handle the business side of things. Being at home all day, as opposed to the office, means that personal consumption of toilet paper is increasing, by some estimates over 40%. I can sell 1 at $10,000. None of these things can be determined just from theory, they depend on the specifics of the business. For a firm in a perfectly competitive market, they face a horizontal marginal revenue curve. However, in the particular case of toilet paper, there is not a monopoly market. But that’s precisely the point: a firm operating on the downward-sloping portion of the marginal cost curve is exiting the market; they cannot survive if they cannot produce on the upward-sloping portion of the marginal cost curve. On your last one to the message I am replying to, note that a pharmaceutical producer does have a (temporary) monopoly on a non-expired patent. If one child has a B average and another has a C average and one has an A, then give everyone a B. I think you can see this in the actual modest increases in toilet paper prices, but obviously, there isn’t enough: the proof is that there are shortages. To be at 120% capacity is not the same as 120% over capacity. This is why one shouldn’t blog before coffee. Part of these sales could have been imported, or taken from stocks (if they still dare to keep some), or produced in production lines with, of course, higher marginal cost (that’s why they had been idled). Theory is of course very helpful, but as always, it is critical to keep in mind the ways that the real world differs from the model. If the downward slope of the demand curve is steeper than the downward slope of the supply curve, then they can intersect on the left-hand arm of the supply(/marginal cost) curve. A common objection to the simple supply-and-demand model that predicts a shortage when the price is capped below its equilibrium level goes as follows. On the current market for toilet paper, there are two reasons why consumer demand has increased. Supply and Demand. Terms My guess is those were single rolls of commercial toilet paper. ), 2) If you were right that firms and plants produce below marginal cost=price, they would leave money on the table. A person in Florida observed three *barrels* of toilet paper at a convenience store, all single rolls, and selling for $1.75 each, as I recall. Price can be greater than MC in a monopoly situation (though output would still be where mc = Mr, and thus the general point that you need an increase in price to induce more production still holds). (Remember, as Jon pointed out, that the firm will only produce on the increasing portion of its marginal cost curve.) All production planning is based on probabilistic considerations. Of course, it isn’t quite that simple, as there are usually things you can do to increase capacity, at least temporarily, without building a new factory. In a monopolistic market, marginal cost is still increasing, of course (it always does when some factors of production are fixed), but a monopoly does not have a supply curve because its quantity supplied depends on marginal revenue and thus on the demand schedule (curve). I have two right beside me. The reason for my optimism: economizing and substitution. Maybe this is the point that has been missing, because I thought it was too obvious to state? If they were operating at maximum capacity, that was a big problem, because any growth would have to come from increased capex. For any firm (or individual), the profit-maximizing point is where marginal revenue = marginal cost (I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to prove this; it involves calculus and I don’t want to do calculus tonight). The answer is found in the basic economic principles of supply and demand. The demand line shifts up from D1 to D2—increasing prices, but only temporarily. © 2003-2021 Chegg Inc. All rights reserved. Can’t Georgia-Pacific evade the law of increasing marginal cost by having its commercial production lines produce toilet paper for consumers? But large companies like Georgia-Pacific or Procter and Gamble, which are incited to maintain the value of their brands (which are worth billions or even tens of billions of dollars), will not yield to this temptation except if the shortage situation gets closer to Cuba or Venezuela. I think what Dylan is objecting to is the unqualified, bald statement: “all goods, including those in more demand during the current crisis, have increasing marginal costs of production”. You will be ‘producing’ at 100% of the 50 gallon capacity, but shipping at 120% of capacity until the water tank is empty. The standard supply-demand graph is all you need. To Pierre’s point, a lot of this rests on terms that are used differently from colloquial use, so confusion often results. Can the machines operate at better efficiency when running 24/7? But for two people who are so very smugly sure of yourselves, you’re doing a really bad job of explaining this “very basic” point. “He (or she) is the one to whom we owe our federal ration of recycled toilet paper, thank God!”. So, the equilibrium part of the model is a bit mythical, and while interesting conceptually, doesn’t really tell you where most businesses are on a production curve at any moment in time. “The 213% increase is sales over one week”. To be clear: in the short-run, a firm could operate so long as P> Average Variable Cost. I told the person in Florida to pick up one barrel, and carry it to the checkout counter. If so, where do those costs show up? P.S. One jeweler gets most of their pieces cast by a third party. Therefore, some sort of rationing may take place. They created something new, but couldn’t create enough demand for their new product or service to be financially viable. I’m going to try one more example, and then try to go and get some real work done today. All that has changed is that people have decided to invest in toilet paper inventory (I). On the one hand, consumers fear that the shortage will persist or worsen (like in Cuba or Venezuela), so they want to stock toilet paper. So, either you’re not assuming firms are profit-maximizers, in which case you need to offer a different explanation for their behavior, or you’re inconsistent in your explanation, in which case you need to correct the inconsistency. *  Marginal Cost (MC) can be downward-sloping at a for certain levels of production, but no profit-maximizing firm would produce on the downward-sloping part of marginal cost since, at the same price level, they could increase production and earn a higher profit (for example, for a price of 4, the firm could produce either 10 units or they could produce 60 units. But the general idea isn’t unheard of either. What does “the” “empirical marginal cost curve” look like? As for your contention that a firm would never produce in the region where the MC curve is negatively sloped, that sounds like a bit of interesting original research on your part that you should publish because neither your reference nor any others I can find so far say as much. Jon: Instead of “at minimal marginal cost”, you probably want to say “at marginal cost=price”. Why, just the other day, I was discussing law with a friend who is a constitutional law professor (law is something I study alongside economics, but it is not the subject of my graduate degree the way econ is). In a perfectly competitive model, the firm faces constant marginal revenue at P. Oh, and let me apologize to Dylan: I was not reading him right. I also don’t work with companies normally that make a profit. Just like it is mathematically possible for me to travel to Mars in under 3 hours but it is not scientifically possible. There’s still an implied opportunity cost, she can’t use that exact metal to do other things, but that cost is minimized now, because the other things are speculative, and the bulk order she’s been paid for. Charmin Ultra Rolls cost about 3x the price of the least expensive option. states are shut down. The companies that are here today, about 50% won’t exist in 5 years (probably a much higher percentage than that right now, unfortunately). She is simply investing in her business to produce, and make consumers aware of, her widgets. It may not end there. Firms would not leave money on the table the way you are assuming they are. Producing more toilet paper for consumers on its current production lines would require more workers, whose marginal productivity would decrease. There are numerous ways to teach your children about economics. Yes, that is what I did mean. Help me understand this with real world examples please. Indeed, in any technical field, basic (which does not equate to “simple”) points can be misunderstood by laymen. It might seem like the process doesn’t involve many human beings at all, because it’s so automated. I think one of the points in contention here is the assumption on profit maximizing. Moreover, the paper company knows that when people go back to their normal workplaces and the government’s price controls are (hopefully) lifted, the production-line switching will have to be done in reverse. @Dylan: You may want to scroll up this long thread. COVID-19 has impacted the demand for toilet paper because many people were scared to leave their homes. No, you are not. Meanwhile, what is the local grocer supposed to do? So if toilet paper manufacturers ramp up production by hiring idled workers because of the increased demand, who are they supplying? And the fact that price controls have created shortages on this market is an indication that it is. (for a price of 4, the firm could produce either 10 units or they could produce 60 units. The inefficient firms will drop out of the market. Looking at this article, we see that shipping is somewhat of a constraint. Right, but no profit-maximizing firm operates on the left-hand portion of the MC curve, so it’s irrelevant. Some equipment might have been idle, as we are told was the case in the P&G plant. … But yes, this is typically what you would find in a rest stop or a McDonalds bathroom….. (That may be what Daniel is getting at.). The manufacturers know this. Jon: As you pointed out to me privately, the main issue might be that Dylan assumes a monopoly (or at least much market power), while the model I have been using assumes a competitive market. There will be a shortage in the vernacular sense no matter what. If a firm is not producing at the increasing portion of the marginal cost curve, we need to ask “why?”  We could eliminate the “profit-maximizing” assumption, in which case we’d need something else to motivate firms. Regarding your point that “companies not busy being born, are busy dying,” I say that is absolutely correct (another point in favor of the perfectly competitive market approach is the ease of entry/exit in an industry). Yes. The standard supply-demand graph is all you need. It is more of a commodity, until recently demand has probably been pretty stable and predictable, so there is a better chance that producers were operating closer to max efficiency. Dylan: Your wife is easy to understand with the competitive model. Jon, we are explicitly talking about a demand shock in the toilet paper market in the United States in April 2020 caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The basic story still stays the same. The side of safety often has excess capacity such that if one production unit goes down, there is enough available slack to meet production goals anyway without increasing costs. TMC: That’s a good point. They don’t produce more, because there are only so many people who would benefit from the drug, and if you produced more you would have to store it, and there are shelf life issues, and ultimately dispose of the product without being able to sell it. A whole bidet might be hard to find space for, but a bidet shower is comparatively easy to fit. It is true this is likely just a temporary shock, but it still does not explain your claim here, or your original claim “Thus there is little incentive for firms to increase capacity because once the tp-mania wears off.”  Indeed, you yourself in this comment contradict yourself by saying there is incentive for firms to increase capacity (“toilet paper manufacturers ramp up production by hiring idled workers because of the increased demand”). The first pill had a very high marginal cost, that is, the cost of the plant. If she succeeds and consumers discover that this is what they want, she will start producing the widgets in batches of 10 or 100. Noted your responses and have replied. She would like to operate at this stage all the time (actually, not really, because even though it is more efficient, it isn’t as interesting and she wants to maximize her work satisfaction which is a combination of making money and other interests)…but that doesn’t really matter, because she doesn’t have the option of working at that scale very often. The C-average child will be happy, but the A-average child will not. That is clearly a monopolistic model. You said that ALL goods have increasing marginal costs of production. Black markets will develop. If that’s true, sorry to have missed that, Dylan. as it seemingly contradicts the commonplace, stylized fact that there are often increasing returns and economies of scale. Ignore that part. Companies typically try to be profit maximizing, or at least welfare maximizing for their managers. They could sell the drug for the same price, and increase margins by a large amount. An interesting Medium story helps understand; see Will Oremus, “What Everyone’s Getting Wrong About the Toilet Paper Shortage” (April 2). Should I be advising her that she should charge bulk purchasers higher prices for purchasing multiples, instead of lower prices? What is the consumer surplus? I say that some goods have increasing marginal costs of production, and that many others can increase production “up to a point” without increasing marginal costs. If the firm is a profit-maximizer, they will necessarily produce on the upward-sloping portion, since that maximizes profit (as opposed to maximizing loss). That’s a business that has ~10 employees, and has been around for over 20 years. The Medium story illustrates that. This was a basic point, but one I got incorrect nonetheless. Image courtesy of Nic Stage on Flickr. This documentary show clipshows how toilet paper is made. Typically 83 MILLION rolls of toilet paper are made per day! 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