Antitrust & Competition Policy Blog

Editor: D. Daniel Sokol
University of Florida
Levin College of Law

Monday, May 14, 2012

I Need Help to Explain Antitrust to My Daughter's First Grade Class - Slides Would be Appreciated

Posted by D. Daniel Sokol

On Thursday I need to come up with something interesting for "cool job day" in my daughter's first grade class. How do you explain antitrust to a class of seven year olds? I am sure I am not the first to do this so if anyone has any tips, or better yet slides, please send me an email.

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Been there. It's easy. You talk about whether people should be able to buy what they want and then about the idea that this might hurt others and you have merger policy.

Posted by: Joshua Gans | May 14, 2012 2:34:05 PM

I think concepts as market power, consumer sovereignty, and prices should be fairly intuitive to seven year olds. Provided the concepts are translated appropriately.

For example, you'd need to define something as "Lowest Best Possible Price" (i.e. P = MC, or P = MC + I in case of innovation). The price high enough that people want to sell, but low enough that nobody new wants sell.

And that any price above it is due to some obstacles preventing other people to sell who want to sell.

Now you can explain your job as trying to figure out what the obstacles are to getting the lowest best possible price and that the lowest best possible price cannot be achieved directly because you can't see it.

You can then conclude with that they too every time they see a price can ask themselves whether the price could be lower and whether there are obstacles that prevent people from selling it for a lower price.

Posted by: Martin | May 14, 2012 3:17:30 PM

I made a presentation some time ago aimed at university students in a country that had no antitrust law. I used "monopoly" (the game)to help them understand the basics. Maybe that could help.

Posted by: Agustin Valencia-Dongo | May 15, 2012 6:28:18 AM

Dear Danny,

I think that’s going to be challenging because most first graders are just beginning to learn about the concept of money. But let’s give it a try.

Rather than slides, I would suggest a demonstration with, say, marbles and play money, if the teacher will let you do that. The assumption here is that the class has already been taught the difference between pennies, nickels, quarters, fifty-cent pieces and dollar bills. Take a bag of marbles and divide them up roughly among three students, who will be the sellers. You play the buyer. Tell the class that this game is called "how much for that marble?"

First, hand each student seller a folded slip of paper with the price that he or she is to announce when you ask him or her how much for a marble. As you go from seller to seller, the first student should offer her marbles for ten cents apiece, the second for a nickel apiece, and the third for a penny apiece (because those are the prices written on the slips of paper). Remark how the second student is offering a better deal than the first, and how the third student is offering an even better deal than the second. If the class has learned the difference between dimes, nickels, and pennies, they will understand that the third student who is offering the marbles for a penny apiece has the lowest price and will sell the most marbles. You can buy five marbles for a nickel but only one marble from the second for the same amount. Offering different prices in order to sell something like a marble is called competition.

Now have the three student sellers agree with each other to sell the marbles for some other price besides a dime, nickel, or a penny (hand them folded pieces of paper with twenty-five cents, fifty cents, or a dollar bill written on them). Whatever it is they choose, they have to agree to it. Then go around again to each of the student seller and ask how much. Point out to each student that he or she was previously offering to sell at a different price. Ask him or her whether that price is still available. He or she should shake his or her head and say no (unless he or she is cheating). Point out to the class that you don't have a choice but to pay the agreed-upon price, and that what the student sellers have agreed to do is to stop competing with each other by offering different prices. This agreement violates antitrust law.

Now, as a final example, have the two of the student sellers sell their allotment of marbles to the third student for, say, a quarter apiece, and get out of the business. Now hand the third student a folded piece of paper with a price of $100 (or some amount that the class will readily recognize is a sufficiently large and outrageous number) written on it. Approach that student seller and ask her how much. When she announces the price, express outrage. Ask her what happened to the other two student sellers. She should say that they sold their marbles to her. Turn to the class members and ask if any of them have marbles at their desks that they can sell. (Hopefully they will say all no.) Remark that this means if you want to buy marbles in this classroom, you will have to pay this student seller an outrageous sum of money. Explain that this student can do that because she is now the only person selling marbles, which also violates antitrust law.


Posted by: Henry Su | May 15, 2012 7:49:03 AM

How about that Singapore video you posted in March?

Posted by: Iris Achmon | May 15, 2012 8:54:23 AM

Dear Daniel,

We've been there. That's though. If I may share my experience, I have seen that prisoner's dilemma is a quite a common choice of human kind regardless of age and culture. My twins had painted on the walls in the house at around the age of six. And in order to find out the suspect, I questioned them seperately! And surprisingly (may be not) the dilemma was there!

Since there are two kids at home, market sharing (sharing the rooms to play with one; leaving the other out) was a good and easier example for me for a start!

Good Luck!

Gamze OZ

Posted by: Gamze OZ | May 17, 2012 2:29:35 AM

I never had encounter explaining antitrust law to my 7th Grade niece, but I see to it to explain to her circumstances like opposing monopoly. I know at her age she can already comprehend, as long as your daughter. A trusted research about antitrust law is perhaps the best help for you to elaborate this thoughts to your daughter, best of luck!.

Posted by: Fortes Griego | Feb 17, 2013 8:30:06 PM

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