Competition and Critical Mass
Empirical literature and related legal practice using concentration as a proxy for competition measurement are prone to a fallacy of division, as concentration measures are appropriate for perfect competition and perfect collusion but not intermediate levels of competition. Extending the classic Cournot-type competition model of Cowling and Waterson (1976) and Cowling (1976) used to derive the Hirschman-Herfindahl Index (HHI) of market concentration, we propose an adaptation of this model that allows collusive rents for all, none, or some of the firms in a market. Application of our model and new critical mass measures to data for U.S. commercial banks in the period 1984-2004 confirms that concentration measures are unreliable competition metrics. Our results lead us to conclude that critical mass is a promising new market power metric for competition analyses. Policy and future research implications are briefly discussed.
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