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On the Definition of Public Goods. Assessing Richard A. Musgrave's contribution

  • Maxime Demarais-Tremblay


    (Axe Economie et Sociétés - CES - Centre d'économie de la Sorbonne - UP1 - Université Panthéon-Sorbonne - CNRS - Centre Walras Pareto - Université de Lausanne)

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    This paper provides an explanation of the emergence of the standars textbook definition of public goods in the middle of the 20th century. It focuses on Richard Musgrave's contribution in defining public goods as non-rival and non-excludable - from 1939 to 1969. Although Samuelson's mathematical definition is generally used in models of public goods, the qualitative understanding of the specificity of pure public goods owes more to Musgrave's emphasis on the impossibility of exclusion. This paper also highlights the importance of the size of the group to which benefits of a public good accrue. This analysis allow for a reassessment of the Summary table of goods which first appeared in Musgrave and Musgrave (1973) textbook.

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    Paper provided by HAL in its series Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) with number halshs-00951577.

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    Date of creation: Jan 2014
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    Handle: RePEc:hal:cesptp:halshs-00951577
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    1. Pickhardt, Michael, 2006. "Fifty Years after Samuelson's “The Pure Theory of Public Expenditure”: What are we Left With?," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 28(04), pages 439-460, December.
    2. Charles M. Tiebout, 1961. "An Economic Theory of Fiscal Decentralization," NBER Chapters, in: Public Finances: Needs, Sources, and Utilization, pages 79-96 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Ver Eecke, W., 1999. "Public goods: An ideal concept," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 139-156, July.
    4. Richard Sturn, 2010. "'Public goods' before Samuelson: interwar Finanzwissenschaft and Musgrave's synthesis," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(2), pages 279-312.
    5. Hindriks, Jean & Myles, Gareth D., 2013. "Intermediate Public Economics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 2, volume 1, number 0262018691, June.
    6. Johnson, Marianne, 2006. "The Wicksellian Unanimity Rule: The Competing Interpretations of Buchanan and Musgrave," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 28(01), pages 57-79, March.
    7. Steven G. Medema, 2012. "Textbooks as Data for the Study of the History of Economics: Lowly Beast or Fruitful Vineyard?," HISTORY OF ECONOMIC THOUGHT AND POLICY, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2012(2), pages 193-207.
    8. Alain Marciano, 2009. "Buchanan's catallactic critique of Robbins' definition of economics," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(2), pages 125-138.
    9. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416.
    10. Cornes,Richard & Sandler,Todd, 1996. "The Theory of Externalities, Public Goods, and Club Goods," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521477185.
    11. James M. Buchanan & Richard A. Musgrave, 1999. "Public Finance and Public Choice: Two Contrasting Visions of the State," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262024624, June.
    12. Attiat Ott & Robert Solow & Henry Aaron & Martin Feldstein & Oliver Oldman & Paul Samuelson, 2008. "A tribute to Richard Abel Musgrave," Journal of Economics and Finance, Springer, vol. 32(4), pages 330-333, October.
    13. Mas-Colell, Andreu & Whinston, Michael D. & Green, Jerry R., 1995. "Microeconomic Theory," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195102680, March.
    14. Alain Marciano, 2013. "Why Market Failures Are Not a Problem: James Buchanan on Market Imperfections, Voluntary Cooperation, and Externalities," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 45(2), pages 223-254, Summer.
    15. Head, John G, 1977. "Public Goods: The Polar Case Reconsidered," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 53(142&143), pages 227-38, June-Sept.
    16. Peggy Musgrave, 2008. "Comments on two Musgravian concepts," Journal of Economics and Finance, Springer, vol. 32(4), pages 340-347, October.
    17. Alain Marciano, 2009. "Buchanan’s constitutional political economy: exchange vs. choice in economics and in politics," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 20(1), pages 42-56, March.
    18. Richard A. Musgrave, 1961. "Approaches to a Fiscal Theory of Political Federalism," NBER Chapters, in: Public Finances: Needs, Sources, and Utilization, pages 97-134 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Steven G. Medema, 2005. "“Marginalizing” Government: From la scienza delle finanze to Wicksell," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 37(1), pages 1-25, Spring.
    20. Marciano, Alain, 2011. "Buchanan on externalities: An exercise in applied subjectivism," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 280-289.
    21. Richard Sturn, 2006. "Subjectivism, joint consumption and the state: Public goods in Staatswirtschaftslehre," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(1), pages 39-67.
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