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Why public goods are a pedagogical bad

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Abstract

The concept of public goods is confusing because it confounds three analytically distinct concepts: excludability, rivalry, and public finance. Pure public goods are of limited relevance as an explanation of government spending. To make matters worse, the broader policy community uses the term in ways that invoke different means of both public and good than economists favour. For example, global public goods describe everything from the global environment, international financial stability and market efficiency, to health, knowledge, peace and security and humanitarian rights. In this essay, I argue for radically reducing the emphasis placed on public goods in the standard undergraduate public finance curriculum, and instead emphasizing the fundamental underlying issues of exclusion, rivalry, and public finance/provision. The ultimate aim of an undergraduate course in public expenditure should, I argue, be to explain government spending.

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Paper provided by Carleton University, Department of Economics in its series Carleton Economic Papers with number 06-06.

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Length: 28 pages
Date of creation:
Date of revision: 08 Aug 2006
Publication status: Published: Carleton Economic Papers
Handle: RePEc:car:carecp:06-06

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  1. Myles,Gareth D., 1995. "Public Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521497695, November.
  2. Bilodeau, M. & Slivinsky, A., 1994. "Toilet Cleaning and Department Chairing: Volunteering a public service," Cahiers de recherche 94-01, Departement d'Economique de la Faculte d'administration à l'Universite de Sherbrooke.
  3. Zhiqi Chen & Frances Woolley, 1999. "A Cournot-Nash Model of Family Decision Making," Carleton Economic Papers 99-13, Carleton University, Department of Economics, revised Oct 2001.
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  1. Firefighting is not a public good
    by Frances Woolley in Worthwhile Canadian Initiative on 2010-10-06 19:11:39

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