Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics

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Product Differentiation and Economic Progress

  • The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics

Tags Monopoly and Competition

07/30/2014Randall G. Holcombe

Volume 12, No. 1 (2009)


In neoclassical theory, product differentiation provides consumers with a variety of different products within a particular industry, rather than a homogeneous product that characterizes purely competitive markets. The welfare-enhancing benefit of product differentiation is the greater variety of products available to consumers, which comes at the cost of a higher average total cost of production. In reality, firms do not differentiate their products to make them different, or to give consumers variety, but to make them better, so consumers would rather buy that firm’s product rather than the product of a competitor. When product differentiation is seen as a strategy to improve products rather than just to make them different, product  differentiation emerges as the engine of economic progress. In contrast to the neoclassical framework, where product differentiation imposes a cost on the economy in exchange for more product variety, in reality product differentiation lowers costs, creates better products for consumers, and generates economic progress.

Cite This Article

Holcombe, Randall G. "Product Differentiation and Economic Progress." The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics 12, No. 1 (2009): 17–35.

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