CFA Level 1

Microeconomics - Price Ceilings and Floors

Price Ceilings
If the price ceiling is above the market price, then there is no direct effect. If the price ceiling is set below the market price, then a "shortage" is created; the quantity demanded will exceed the quantity supplied. The shortage may be resolved in many ways. One way is "queuing"; people have to wait in line for the product, and only those willing to wait in line for the product will actually get it. Sellers might provide the product only to family and friends, or those willing to pay extra "under the table". Another effect may be that sellers will lower the quality of the good sold. "Black markets" tend to be created by price ceilings.

Figure 3.6: Effect of Price Ceilings

Figure 3.6 illustrates the shortage that occurs when a price ceiling is imposed on suppliers. Consumers demand QD while Suppliers are only willing to supply QS. If the price ceiling is set above the equilibrium, consumers would demand a smaller quantity than suppliers are producing.

Economic Efficiency: Black Vs. Legal Markets
Legal systems provide various benefits to economic systems.

Economic efficiency may be said to occur when an action creates more benefits than costs. Legal systems help economic systems become more efficient by reducing risks to economics participants. Risk represents a cost that must be compensated for by higher charges.

One risk reduced by government regulation is theft. Government protects the property rights of owners so that they can benefit from the assets they own and use them in an efficient, economic manner. Participants in a "black market system" face a high risk of theft in their transactions as well as exposure to other forms of violence.

Governments often also provide a regulatory framework for the safety of products. In a market operating within a legal system, purchasers of drugs have a reasonable expectation about the quality of the drugs and the expected benefits of the drugs. Participants in a black market for drugs will have incomplete information about the quality of drugs purchased and, therefore, appropriate decisions are more difficult to make.

Price Floors
When a "price floor" is set, a certain minimum amount must be paid for a good or service. If the price floor is below a market price, no direct effect occurs. If the market price is lower than the price floor, then a surplus will be generated. Minimum wage laws are good examples of price floors. In many states, the U.S. minimum wage law has no effect, as market wage rates for low-skilled workers are above the U.S. minimum wage rate. In states where the minimum wage is above the market wage rate, the law will increase unemployment for low-skilled workers. Although some low-skilled workers will get higher pay, others will lose their jobs.

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