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A monopoly (from Greek μόνος, mónos, 'single, alone' and πωλεῖν, pōleîn, 'to sell') exists when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity. This contrasts with a monopsony which relates to a single entity's control of a market to purchase a good or service, and with oligopoly and duopoly which consists of a few sellers dominating a market.[1] Monopolies are thus characterized by a lack of economic competition to produce the good or service, a lack of viable substitute goods, and the possibility of a high monopoly price well above the seller's marginal cost that leads to a high monopoly profit.[2] The verb monopolise or monopolize refers to the process by which a company gains the ability to raise prices or exclude competitors. In economics, a monopoly is a single seller. In law, a monopoly is a business entity that has significant market power, that is, the power to charge overly high prices.[3] Although monopolies may be big businesses, size is not a characteristic of a monopoly. A small business may still have the power to raise prices in a small industry (or market).[3]

A monopoly may also have monopsony control of a sector of a market. Likewise, a monopoly should be distinguished from a cartel (a form of oligopoly), in which several providers act together to coordinate services, prices or sale of goods. Monopolies, monopsonies and oligopolies are all situations in which one or a few entities have market power and therefore interact with their customers (monopoly or oligopoly), or suppliers (monopsony) in ways that distort the market.[citation needed]

Monopolies can be established by a government, form naturally, or form by integration. In many jurisdictions, competition laws restrict monopolies due to government concerns over potential adverse effects. Holding a dominant position or a monopoly in a market is often not illegal in itself, however certain categories of behavior can be considered abusive and therefore incur legal sanctions when business is dominant. A government-granted monopoly or legal monopoly, by contrast, is sanctioned by the state, often to provide an incentive to invest in a risky venture or enrich a domestic interest group. Patents, copyrights, and trademarks are sometimes used as examples of government-granted monopolies. The government may also reserve the venture for itself, thus forming a government monopoly, for example with a state-owned company.[citation needed]

Monopolies may be naturally occurring due to limited competition because the industry is resource intensive and requires substantial costs to operate (e.g., certain railroad systems).

However, professor Steve H. Hanke believes that although private monopolies are more efficient than public o

However, professor Steve H. Hanke believes that although private monopolies are more efficient than public ones, often by a factor of two, sometimes private natural monopolies, such as local water distribution, should be regulated (not prohibited) by, e.g., price auctions.[108]

Thomas DiLorenzo asserts, however, that during the early days of utility companies where there was little regulation, there were no natural monopolies and there was competition.Thomas DiLorenzo asserts, however, that during the early days of utility companies where there was little regulation, there were no natural monopolies and there was competition.[109] Only when companies realized that they could gain power through government did monopolies begin to form.

Baten, Bianchi and Moser[110] find historical evidence that monopolies which are protected by patent laws may have adverse effects on the creation of innovation in an economy. They argue that under certain circumstances, compulsory licensing – which allows governments to license patents without the consent of patent-owners – may be effective in promoting invention by increasing the threat of competition in fields with low pre-existing levels of competition.

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