For quick reference, a table contrasting general views from neoclassical and heterodox economics on firms, costs, and prices is provided below. The student should be aware that we are painting in broad strokes here. Both neoclassical and heterodox economics include a variety of sophisticated models and theories, some of which would contradict the characterizations made below. However, as an introduction to microeconomics this table should suffice as a reflection of the core positions and standard ideas within these two camps.
|Prices are determined in…||the market||the planning processes of the business enterprise|
|Prices function to…||clear markets||ensure the reproduction and growth of business enterprises|
|As production increases, average total costs…||first decline to some minimum (or efficient) point and then start to rise again (that is, ATC is ‘U’-shaped)||typically decline up to (or very near) the maximum output at which the production process was designed to operate|
|Marginal costs…||eventually rise with higher levels of production due to the law of diminishing returns||are not generally contemplated by business executives and are not relevant to microeconomic theory, in part because firms don’t (and couldn’t) typically produce according marginal costs and revenues.|
|Price and quantity supplied…||are functionally related–that is, when price changes quantity will generally change||are, in most instances, determined completely separately|
|Firms are viewed as…||terminal ventures, always and everywhere maximizing profits||going concerns, organized and operated to (try to) stay in business into the foreseeable future|
|Firms make short-run decisions…||ignoring fixed costs, because by definition these cannot be changed||typically in accordance with the long-run strategies determined through their long-run planning process|