One Finite Planet

Highlander Economics: Does it end with only one?

First Published:

from IMDB

Back in 1986, the movie Highlander was released. It was actually sufficiently successful to inspire four sequels, plus spin offs and even a reboot. Something in the original clearly stuck a chord, and the tagline and concept ‘in the end there can only be one’  could be part of this.  The plot centres around a small group of individuals, immortals, who become ever stronger by defeating ‘competitor’ immortals in mortal combat.  The immortals all seem have a share of power. Defeat another immortal and grow stronger as the victors gain the power of the vanquished, until only one immortal remains, and the one remaining will hold all the power.  So how closely does the ‘rules’ of the highlander actually match the ‘rules’ for competitor companies?

How accurate is the analogy?

Key Difference or Not: Government intervention.

Governments can be sufficiently concerned about companies becoming the ‘only one’, also known as a monopoly, that governments typically have rules to block monopolies and ensure consumers are actually offered real choice.

So for any significant industry, governments will actually ensure the end game of ‘only one’ cannot be reached for companies, correct?  Ok, so how did Microsoft, or Apple, or Google, or Amazon, or Facebook come to reach their current positions?  Is not each of these effectively a monopoly within their field within the USA?  The point here is that there is a variety of reasons why governments may, in many cases, fail to block monopolies.

A key problem for governments is that business is increasingly international, or ‘global’, and there is no effective international or ‘global’ government.  Further, new and significant businesses may arise as a monopoly before any potential competitor gains any traction, or before the business itself is considered significant, or the competitor could be from another country.

Key Similarities: Share of power vs share of market.

Each time a company can gain the market share or ‘power’ previous held by a competitor, they do become stronger and better placed to at least try for the goal of becoming the ‘only one’.  The ‘power’ of the highlanders does behave as a parallel to ‘market share’ for a company.

The trend towards ‘only one’ is also in common. Historically as industries emerge a plethora of companies arise to chase the opportunity but as the market matures their is a period of consolidation.  However, new companies also arise as new factors change and evolve the market so at times as many (or even more)  new entries in a market can arise as are lost through consolidation, but still the long term trend of mergers and defeat of competitors sees companies constantly trying to completely absorb market share held previously by competitors.  Even in highlander, new competitors must come into existence as the immortals are all different ages.


Companies do seek the same goal as in ‘highlander’, to become the only one. In reality sometimes this process stagnates, but more and more with new business opportunities the goal can be achieved.


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