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Optimal ownership of public goods reconsidered


  • Schmitz, Patrick W.


Consider a non-governmental organization (NGO) that can invest in a public good. Should the government or the NGO own the public project? In an incomplete contracting framework with split-the-difference bargaining, Besley and Ghatak (2001) argue that the party who values the public good most should be the owner. We demonstrate the robustness of their insight when the split-the-difference rule is replaced by the deal-me-out solution. Our finding is in contrast to the private good results of Chiu (1998) and De Meza and Lockwood (1998), who show that the optimal ownership structure crucially depends on whether the split-the-difference rule or the deal-me-out solution is used.

Suggested Citation

  • Schmitz, Patrick W., 2014. "Optimal ownership of public goods reconsidered," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 125(1), pages 21-24.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolet:v:125:y:2014:i:1:p:21-24 DOI: 10.1016/j.econlet.2014.08.003

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Chiu, Y. Stephen & Rachel Yang, B., 1999. "The outside option, threat point, and Nash bargaining solution," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 181-188, February.
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    5. Maija Halonen-Akatwijuka & Evagelos Pafilis, 2009. "Reputation and Ownership of Public Goods," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 09/211, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
    6. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1999. "Foundations of Incomplete Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(1), pages 115-138.
    7. Marco Francesconi & Abhinay Muthoo, 2011. "Control Rights In Complex Partnerships," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 551-589, June.
    8. Schmitz, Patrick W., 2013. "Incomplete contracts and optimal ownership of public goods," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 118(1), pages 94-96.
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    13. Halonen-Akatwijuka, Maija, 2012. "Nature of human capital, technology and ownership of public goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(11), pages 939-945.
    14. Timothy Besley & Maitreesh Ghatak, 2001. "Government Versus Private Ownership of Public Goods," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1343-1372.
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    19. David de Meza & Ben Lockwood, 2004. "Spillovers, Investment Incentives and the Property Rights Theory of the Firm," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(2), pages 229-253, June.
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    23. Hoppe, Eva I. & Schmitz, Patrick W., 2010. "Public versus private ownership: Quantity contracts and the allocation of investment tasks," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(3-4), pages 258-268, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Schmitz, Patrick W., 2015. "Government versus private ownership of public goods: The role of bargaining frictions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 23-31.

    More about this item


    Ownership; Incomplete contracts; Investment incentives; Public goods; Bargaining;

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law
    • C78 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Bargaining Theory; Matching Theory
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • L31 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Nonprofit Institutions; NGOs; Social Entrepreneurship


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