Last updated: September 27, 2019
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The term surplus is used in economics for several related quantities. The consumer surplus (sometimes named consumer’s surplus or consumers’ surplus) is the amount that consumers benefit by being able to purchase a product for a price that is less than the most that they would be willing to pay. The producer surplus is the amount that producers benefit by selling at a market price mechanism that is higher than the least that they would be willing to sell for.

Note that producer surplus generally flows through to the owners of the factors of production: in perfect competition, no producer surplus accrues to the individual firm. This is the same as saying that economic profit is driven to zero. Real-world businesses generally own or control some of their inputs, meaning that they receive the producer’s surplus due to them: this is known as normal profit, and is a component of the firm’s opportunity costs. If the markets for factors are perfectly competitive as well, producer surplus ultimately ends up as economic rent to the owners of scarce inputs such as land. 1] Overview On a standard supply and demand (S&D) diagram, consumer surplus (CS) is the triangular area above the price level and below the demand curve, since intramarginal consumers are paying less for the item than the maximum that they would pay. In some schools of heterodox economics, the economic surplus denotes the total income which the ruling class derives from its ownership of scarce factors of production, which is either reinvested or spent on consumption.

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In Marxian economics, the term surplus may also refer to surplus value, surplus product and surplus labour. Consumer surplus Consumer surplus is the difference between the maximum price a consumer is willing to pay and the actual price they do pay. If a consumer would be willing to pay more than the current asking price, then they are getting more benefit from the purchased product than they spent to buy it. An example of a good with generally high consumer surplus is drinking water. People would pay very high prices for drinking water, as they need it to urvive. The difference in the price that they would pay, if they had to, and the amount that they pay now is their consumer surplus. Note that the utility of the first few liters of drinking water is very high (as it prevents death), so the first few liters would likely have more consumer surplus than subsequent liters. The maximum price a consumer would be willing to pay for a given amount is the sum of the maximum price he would be willing to pay for the first unit, the maximum additional price he would be willing to pay for the second unit, etc.

Typically these prices are decreasing; in that case they are given by the individual demand curve. If these prices are first increasing and then decreasing there may be a non-zero amount with zero consumer surplus. The consumer would not buy an amount larger than zero and smaller than this amount because the consumer surplus would be negative. The maximum additional price a consumer would be willing to pay for each additional unit may also alternatingly be high and low, e. g. f he wants an even number of units, such as in the case of tickets he uses in pairs on dates. The lower values do not show up in the demand curve because they correspond to amounts the consumer does not buy, regardless of the price. For a given price the consumer buys the amount for which the consumer surplus is highest. The aggregate consumers’ surplus is the sum of the consumer’s surplus for each individual consumer. This can be represented on the figure of the aggregate demand curve.