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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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  • Frances Woolley, 2006. "Why public goods are a pedagogical bad," Carleton Economic Papers 06-06, Carleton University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:car:carecp:06-06
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Bilodeau, Marc & Slivinski, Al, 1996. "Toilet cleaning and department chairing: Volunteering a public service," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 299-308, February.
    2. Chen, Zhiqi & Woolley, Frances, 2001. "A Cournot-Nash Model of Family Decision Making," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(474), pages 722-748, October.
    3. Leach,John, 2004. "A Course in Public Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521535670, May.
    4. Myles,Gareth D., 1995. "Public Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521497695, May.
    5. Leach,John, 2004. "A Course in Public Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521828772, May.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Firefighting is not a public good
      by Frances Woolley in Worthwhile Canadian Initiative on 2010-10-07 00:11:39
    2. Are ideas really non-rival?
      by Nick Rowe in Worthwhile Canadian Initiative on 2015-06-13 15:16:13

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    1. Ryan Safner, 2021. "“Public Good” or “Good for the Public?” Political Entrepreneurship and the Public Funding of Scientific Research," Journal of Private Enterprise, The Association of Private Enterprise Education, vol. 36(Spring 20), pages 17-44.

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