The Production Possibility Frontier
Consider the case of an island economy that produces only two goods: wine and grain. In a given period of time, the islanders may choose to produce only wine, only grain, or a combination of the two according to the following table: Production Possibility Table
(Thousand of bottles)|(Thousand of bushels)|
The production possibility frontier (PPF) is the curve resulting when the above data is graphed, as shown below:
Production Possibility Frontier
The PPF shows all efficient combinations of output for this island economy when the factors of production are used to their full potential. The economy could choose to operate at less than capacity somewhere inside the curve, for example at point a, but such a combination of goods would be less than what the economy is capable of producing. A combination outside the curve such as point b is not possible since the output level would exceed the capacity of the economy.
The shape of this production possibility frontier illustrates the principle of increasing cost. As more of one product is produced, increasingly larger amounts of the other product must be given up. In this example, some factors of production are suited to producing both wine and grain, but as the production of one of these commodities increases, resources better suited to production of the other must be diverted. Experienced wine producers are not necessarily efficient grain producers, and grain producers are not necessarily efficient wine producers, so the opportunity cost increases as one moves toward either extreme on the curve of production possibilities.
Suppose a new technique was discovered that allowed the wine producers to double their output for a given level of resources. Further suppose that this technique could not be applied to grain production. The impact on the...
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