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From weakest-link to best-shot: The voluntary provision of public goods

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  • Jack Hirshleifer

Abstract

It has traditionally been assumed that the socially available amount X of a public good is the simple sum of the separate amounts x i produced by the i=1, ..., I members of the community. But there are many other possibilities of practical importance. Among them are: (i) Weakest-link rule, where the socially available amount is the minimum of the quantities individually provided, and (ii) Best-shot rule, where the socially available amount is the maximum of the individual quantities. The former tends to arise in linear situations, where each individual has a veto on the total to be provided (e.g., if each is responsible for one link of a chain); the latter tends to arise when there is a single prize of overwhelming importance for the community, with any individual's effort having a chance of securing the prize. In comparison with the standard Summation formula of ordinary public-good theory, it is shown that underprovision of the public good tends to considerably moderated when the Weakest-link function is applicable, but aggravated when the Best-shot function is applicable. In time of disaster, where the survival of the community may depend upon each person's doing his duty, the conditions for applicability of the Weakest-link rule are approximated. This circumstance explains the historical observation that disaster conditions tend to elicit an extraordinary amount of unselfish behavior. Copyright Martinus Nijhoff Publishers 1983

Suggested Citation

  • Jack Hirshleifer, 1983. "From weakest-link to best-shot: The voluntary provision of public goods," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 41(3), pages 371-386, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:41:y:1983:i:3:p:371-386
    DOI: 10.1007/BF00141070
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Chamberlin, John, 1974. "Provision of Collective Goods As a Function of Group Size," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(2), pages 707-716, June.
    2. Jack Hirshleifer, 1978. "Natural Economy Versus Political Economy," UCLA Economics Working Papers 129, UCLA Department of Economics.
    3. De Alessi, Louis, 1975. "Toward an Analysis of Postdisaster Cooperation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(1), pages 127-138, March.
    4. John Chamberlin, 1976. "A diagrammatic exposition of the logic of collection action," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 26(1), pages 59-74, June.
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