Saturday, March 18, 2006

ECONOMIES OF SCALE

If you own a business that sells lemonade, you may charge $10 for one cup. Ten dollars, yeah right! Yet you may want to charge that much if you only had one customer, because you need $10 to pay for the lemons, the water, the pitcher, the spoons, the cups and the overhead. Luckily, a lot of people like lemonade that you can spread your costs on more than one consumer.

You understand that although you have the right to charge $10 for each cup of lemonade you make, you can make more money selling 100 cups for $1 a cup than one cup for $10. Plus, if you could get away with selling a cup of lemonade for $10 than I might just open a stand to undercut your ridiculous price. This is how the profit-motive and open competition set real, fair and moral prices in the marketplace.

What if there is a lemon celebration held one month out of the year? Obviously, you would expect to have more customers for that month, but you know that after the celebration, it will be business as usual. The rise in demand is only temporary, so instead of wasting money on buying more pitchers and spoons and opening more stands, it’s better to just raise the price. The last thing you want to do is buy more capital that you will not use after interest in lemons goes away. Unused capital just adds to the overhead.

But what if interest in lemons continues beyond that one month out of the year? Now you have the potential to sell more than 100 cups. By analyzing the market enough, you find that you can sell 1000 cups for $0.50 (50 cents) a cup. So you figure you can only produce a 1000 cups of lemonade by buying more pitchers and spoons and opening more stands. You make more money selling 1000 cups for $0.50 each than 100 cups for $1 each.

This proven economic model explains a couple of things for us. Peak times, like summertime for air travel or hurricane seasons for batteries, are only temporary rises in demand in those markets. Businesses know their markets enough to know when demand is temporary and when it is not. Like with the lemonade owner, businesses are not stupid to buy more capital in an attempt to meet a demand that will just disappear in no time.

Therefore, a higher demand in the short-run raises prices while a higher demand in the long-run lowers prices when there is an economies of scale, which is the lowering of average costs over more units sold.

Economies of scale also explains why Hawaiian Airlines charges different prices between different ports. There are more people traveling between Honolulu and California than there are between Honolulu and American Samoa. Thus, HAL profits more from its lower priced tickets to California than its higher priced tickets to American Samoa.

Yet HAL needs a competitor. But after deregulation of the US airline industry, spoiled American companies have not been able to adapt to life without welfare support. American Samoa is going to need a foreign competitor servicing its people, but we’re going to need a declaration of independence from US cabotage laws and the Jones Act that prohibit such competition.

Where is Togiola, Faleomavaega and Moliga on the Jones Act? If they can’t get us an exemption, then we should lay the blame for the high prices of our roundtrip tickets where it belongs -- at the feet of big government.

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