By David F. Heathfield
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Additional info for An Introduction to Cost and Production Functions
E. Fergusson, The Neoclassical Theory of Production and Distribution (1969), Chapters 1-2. The law of diminishing return was first discussed by two classical economists : Ricardo (1846) and von Thunen (1826). But see also Joan Robinson (1960). 1 Optimisation Having outlined the range of choices open to an entrepreneur (the production function), we shall now investigate the economic side of production, that is the choice of a technology and a level of output from among the many possible. The fundamental decision unit here is the firm, and we will assume that the firm's sole aim is to maximise profit.
Both the AC and the MC curves are U-shaped (cf. the inverted 'U'shaped average and marginal product curves). This is not an unnatural property from a technical point of view. Most processes have large scale economies, meaning that average cost of production declines initially. However, it seems reasonable to assume that average cost must start to increase somewhere. Transportation costs, costs of managing a very large organisation, lack of flexibility for very large firms, etc. are some of the factors which are put forward to explain why increasing economics of scale eventually will come to an end and why average production costs eventually increase.
Is exactly 2 then we need twice the quantities of inputs in order to produce twice the amount of output. This is called constant returns to scale. If Az IA! is greater than 2 then we have to more than double the quantities of inputs in order to double output. This is called decreasing returns to scale. As we move along the ray we may move from a range in which we experience increasing returns into a range in which returns are constant and thence into a range in which returns are decreasing. Assume now that we produce one unit (q = 1) with the amounts of labour and capital as indicated by A!.
An Introduction to Cost and Production Functions by David F. Heathfield