One aspect of agglomeration economies is economies of scale. When automobile production centered in Detroit in the early part of the twentieth century, this allowed more efficient production methods, which lowered the per-unit cost of output. Arrow (2000) emphasizes the tension between increasing returns to scale and equilibrium models, and as Young (1928) noted, increasing returns to scale is at the foundation of economic progress. Kaldor (1972), building on Young's insights, noted that static neoclassical economic models did not do a good job of depicting the economic progress that results from increasing returns to scale in production. This insight goes at least as far back as Adam Smith (1776), however, who noted the increased productivity that comes with an increased division of labor. Smith's example of the pin factory, where individuals specializing in one small part of a larger manufacturing operation increase productivity by, perhaps, hundreds of times, shows the benefits of agglomeration economies. The division of labor is limited by the extent of the market, Smith argued, so enlarging the extent of the market allows for a greater division of labor, which increases productivity and generates prosperity. By concentrating automobile production in Detroit rather than having automobiles locally built, the extent of the market is increased from one locality to an entire nation, and in some cases an entire world. The resulting agglomeration economies increase productivity and produce prosperity.
Holcombe, R. (2012), "The Rise and Fall of Agglomeration Economies", Emanuel Andersson, D. (Ed.) The Spatial Market Process (Advances in Austrian Economics, Vol. 16), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 211-232. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1529-2134(2012)0000016011Download as .RIS
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