Banking and Financial Circuits and the Role of the State
Edited by Louis-Philippe Rochon and Mario Seccareccia
Chapter 15: A contribution to the macroeconomics of public goods and externalities
Private goods and services, or commodities, are produced for the market, under the influence of the profit motive, and are sold to consumers who determine their purchases according to the value or utility of the goods to them. Food, clothing and shelter are categories of such goods; likewise furniture and household appliances. By contrast police services, courts, traffic control, roads and sidewalks, street lighting, water and sewage systems, education, public health, many kinds of regulation and many, many other services are produced by governments, in the public interest, and provided mostly free of charge or for minimal fees to the general public, who use them or rely on them often without a second thought. Education up to some varying level is provided free almost everywhere; healthcare of some sort, and public health generally, are provided free or at a subsidized cost in most advanced countries. These are public goods, of general benefit, hard to measure, hard to price, hard to cost because of the difficulty of allocating overheads, but capable of reasonably precise definition. Public goods are non-rivalrous and non-exhaustible: if I benefit from the traffic cop that does not mean you cannot; if I use the court system or the sewers, I do not use them up, although at a certain level of use congestion may develop.
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