The Law of Diminishing Returns (LDR) is a principle of economics that states that as an input is added, the output produced by the process will become less than that which it produced before. This concept first originated in the late nineteenth century. Initially, it was applied to agriculture and factories. Now, it is considered a general principle of classical economics.
However, the term ‘law’ in the context of diminishing returns refers to a definite set of concepts. It is important to understand that the concept of diminishing returns has different implications for different industries. For instance, the law applies to fixed factors such as land and labor.
As an example, if a vegetable garden has three workers, it will produce nine carrots a day. If a fourth worker is hired, it will produce eleven carrots a day. Adding an extra worker would result in an increased output, but not an increased efficiency.
On the other hand, if the garden had three ovens, it could double its output. But if a fifth baker were added, the production level of the bakery would not increase. In fact, it would reduce the average productivity of the bakery.
A similar effect can be observed in the case of an automobile factory. When a manufacturer adds another worker, the production level increases, but the output produced per unit of labour is smaller than before. The same logic holds true for a building’s HVAC system.
The Law of Diminishing Returns is a concept of classical economics. It applies to a fixed factor, such as labor or land, or to an input, such as machinery. Variable factors, such as capital, can also be considered.
When a producer tries to find an optimal result, it is essential that it is defined clearly and precisely. This can be done by defining all the resources and total cost of production. Ideally, all the elements of the system should be operating at the highest possible efficiency. Otherwise, the optimal result is not reached.
Laws of returns are formulated on the basis of the concept of an optimal result. It is not easy to define the optimal result with numbers. However, experience can help to assess the effects of progressive deviation from this optimal result.
In the long run, the amount of land used for agricultural purposes will continue to grow. Eventually, the human population will exceed the available supply of food. By this time, the law of diminishing returns will have to apply.
Another variation of the law of diminishing returns is the Malthusian law of population. According to this law, the supply of human labor is going to continue to rise, leading to a decrease in the quantity of the food produced. Thus, the rate of profit and return on investment will begin to drop as the addition of new workers begins to outweigh the output of previous ones.
As with other economic concepts, the law of returns can have a wide variety of applications. It can be a source of confusion for rational producers.