The standard economic assumption underlying the analysis of firms is profit maximization. Real world firms, however, might not, and many times do not, make decisions based on the profit-maximization objective, or at least exclusively on the profit-maximization objective. Other objectives include: (1) sales maximization, (2) pursuit of personal welfare, and (3) pursuit of social welfare. Although firms are assumed to make decisions that increase profit in standard economic analysis, real world firms often pursue other objectives on a day-to-day basis. Some firms set their sights on maximizing sales. For other firms the owners or employees are inclined to enhance personal living standards. And more than a few firms take steps that promote the overall welfare of society. In some cases, these other objectives help a firm pursue profit maximization. In other cases, they prevent a firm from maximizing profit. Profit Maximization
Profit maximization is the process of obtaining the highest possible level of profit through the production and sale of goods and services. This is the guiding principle underlying the analysis of short-run production by a firm. In particular, economic analysis is assumed that firms undertake actions and make the decisions that increase profit. Profit is the difference between the total revenue a firm receives from selling output and the total cost of producing that output. Profit-maximization means that a firm seeks the production level that generates the greatest difference between total revenue and total cost. Consider how profit maximization might work for The Wacky Willy Company. Suppose that The Wacky Willy Company generates $100,000 of profit by producing 100,000 Stuffed Amigos, the difference between $1,000,000 of revenue and $900,000 of cost. * If profit falls from this $100,000 level when The Wacky Willy Company produces more (100,001) or fewer (99,999) Stuffed Amigos, then it is maximizing profit at 100,000. Alternatively, if profit can be increased by producing more or less, then The Wacky Willy Company is NOT maximizing profit at the current level of production. * Suppose, for example, that producing 100,001 Stuffed Amigos adds an extra $11 to revenue but only $9 to cost. In this case, profit can be increased by $2, reaching $100,002, by producing one more Stuffed Amigo. As such 100,000 is NOT the profit maximizing level of production.
* In contrast, suppose that producing 99,999 Stuffed Amigos reduces cost by $11 but only reduces revenue by only $9. In this case, profit can also be increased by $2, reaching $100,002, by producing one fewer Stuffed Amigo. As such 100,000 is NOT the profit maximizing level of production. Sales Maximization
A reasonable, and often pursued objective of firms is to maximize sales, that is, to sell as much output as possible. Clearly sales lead to revenue, meaning that maximizing sales is also bound to maximize revenue. But as the analysis of short-run production indicates, maximizing sales does NOT necessarily maximize profit. So why do firms do it? Are firms unreasonable? Are they irrational? Do they NOT understand the basic economic principles of short-run production? For some firms, the answers to these questions could be yes. But for other firms, sales maximization is actually a reasonable, even better, alternative to profit maximization. Consider, the day-to-day production of Wacky Willy Stuffed Amigos. Suppose the President of The Wacky Willy Company, William J. Wackowski, issues a corporate directive to sell as many Stuffed Amigos as possible, to maximize sales. Is Willy Wackowski wacky? It might be that Mr. Wackowski has no knowledge of basic economic principles. Alternatively Wacky William might have more business sense than it appears. In particular, if the price received from selling Stuffed Amigos is greater than the cost of producing each one, and looks to remain that way regardless of the quantity produced,...
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