Legal Dictionary

diminishing returns

Legal Definition of diminishing returns

See also

Definition of diminishing returns

Further reading

In economics, diminishing returns (also called diminishing marginal returns) is decrease in the marginal (per-unit) output of a production process as the amount of a single factor of production is increased, while the amounts of all other factors of production stay constant.

The law of diminishing returns (also law of diminishing marginal returns or law of increasing relative cost) states that in all productive processes, adding more of one factor of production, while holding all others constant, will at some point yield lower per-unit returns. The law of diminishing returns does not imply that adding more of a factor will decrease the total production, a condition known as negative returns, though in fact this is common.

For example, the use of fertilizer improves crop production on farms and in gardens; but at some point, adding more and more fertilizer improves the yield less and less, and excessive quantities can even reduce the yield. A common sort of example is adding more workers to a job, such as assembling a car on a factory floor. At some point, adding more workers causes problems such as getting in each other's way, or workers frequently find themselves waiting for access to a part. In all of these processes, producing one more unit of output per unit of time will eventually cost increasingly more, due to inputs being used less and less effectively.

The law of diminishing returns is one of the most famous laws in all of economics. It plays a central role in production theory.

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