public goods

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Related to public goods: externalities

public goods


collective goods

(ECONOMICS) commodities or services -e.g. defence, public parks, or urban clean air – which when supplied to one person are available to all. The contrast is with individual or private goods, which, in theory at least, are consumed privately

According to Hirsch (1977), ‘the central issue’ involved in a consideration of the provision of private and public goods ‘is an adding-up problem’: what some individuals individually can obtain, all individuals and society cannot always get; and some things that societies might obtain cannot be obtained except by collective action. Thus society has to find some means of determining how such different sets of outcomes should be reconciled. If private decision-making provides no automatic best answer to such questions, nor necessarily do centrally controlled economies. Problems of overall coordination, and a lack of consideration for both true productivity and the external social costs of production, have beset both decentralized and centrally controlled economies. See also GALBRAITH, AFFLUENT SOCIETY, PARETO OPTIMALITY, SUBOPTIMALITY, POSITIONAL GOODS AND POSITIONALITY.

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