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Public Good


A public good is a product that one individual can consume without reducing its availability to another individual, and from which no one is excluded. Economists refer to public goods as “non-rivalrous” and “non-excludable”. Examples include fresh air, public parks, and national defense.


The phonetic spelling of “Public Good” is /ˈpʌblɪk gʊd/

Key Takeaways

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  1. Non-excludability: Public goods are non-excludable, meaning that they are available to everyone, and it is not possible to prevent a person from using them because they did not pay for it.
  2. Non-rivalry: Public goods are also non-rivalrous, which means that if one person uses the good, it doesn’t reduce the amount available for another person.
  3. Externalities: Public goods often result in positive externalities. These are benefits received by people not directly involved in the production or consumption of the good, and they usually generate substantial societal benefits.



The term “Public Good” is critical in business and finance as it refers to a product or service provided without profit for the overall benefit of society. Public goods are typically funded by taxation and provided by the government, ensuring that everyone has access to them, regardless of whether they can pay or not. They are non-excludable and non-rivalrous, meaning one person’s use doesn’t reduce its availability to others and no one can be effectively excluded from using the good. Key examples of public goods include lighthouses, public parks, and clean air. Understanding the concept of public goods is essential for policymakers and economists when structuring public policy and assessing economic welfare. It forms the basis for many debates about market efficiency, government intervention, and the allocation of resources.


The purpose of a public good in the context of finance and business essentially revolves around the provision of goods or services that are non-excludable and non-rival. Non-excludable means that once these services are made available, no individual can be effectively excluded from utilizing them. Non-rival refers to the specific characteristic of a public good where its consumption by one individual does not reduce its availability or utility for another individual. The non-excludability and non-rival aspects distinguish public goods from private goods and ensure that they can cater to an unlimited number of individuals without any depletion or reduction in quality.Public goods are vital in our societal structure as they serve the interest of the public as a whole, often being fundamental necessities for survival and development, such as street lighting, public parks, and defence. For example, public parks are used by everyone without any admission fee and your use of the park doesn’t prevent others from enjoying it simultaneously. Thus, the role of public goods is really to offer universal access to essential amenities, allowing everyone, regardless of their economic status, to better their living conditions. Furthermore, public goods often exist to rectify market failures where private providers would not be able to deliver the goods or services effectively due to limitations in profitability, thus it becomes the responsibility of the government to ensure the provision of such goods and services.


1. Parks and Recreation Facilities: Parks, playgrounds, and other recreational facilities are typically funded by taxpayer dollars and offer use to the public for free or at a minimal cost. These are public goods because they are non-excludable, anyone is allowed to use them, and non-rivalrous, meaning one person using the park doesn’t prevent others from doing so at the same time.2. National Defense: This is a common example of a public good. The military protects all residents and territory within the country, regardless of whether or not individuals contribute to its funding (through taxes). It is non-excludable and non-rivalrous since one person’s use doesn’t detract from another’s.3. Public Health Initiatives: These include various types of disease control and prevention programs, vaccination programs, the monitoring and control of air and water quality, etc. These are non-excludable and non-rivalrous. For example, when a vaccine is provided to a segment of the population, it benefits not only those who receive the vaccine but also others by reducing the spread of disease.These examples reflect the key characteristics of public goods – they are non-excludable and non-rivalrous. This means they are available for everyone to use and one person’s use does not reduce its availability for others.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Public Good?

A public good is a commodity or a service that is provided for all members of a society to consume, regardless of whether or not they pay for it. They are non-excludable and non-rivalrous in nature.

Can you explain the term non-excludable in relation to a public good?

Non-excludable means that no one can be prevented from accessing and using the good once it’s provided. In other words, when a good is non-excludable, an individual cannot be effectively excluded from its use.

Can you define non-rivalrous in terms of a public good?

A good is non-rivalrous when its supply doesn’t get smaller with use by one consumer, and it remains available for consumption by others. In simple terms, one person’s consumption of the good doesn’t reduce its availability for others.

What are some examples of public goods?

Examples of public goods include a city’s air quality, national defense, lighthouses, public parks, and public roads. These goods are available for the benefit of all, regardless of individual contributions to their creation or maintenance.

Who typically provides public goods, and why?

Public goods are typically provided by the state or public sector since they may not be adequately produced, maintained, or distributed by the private sector. This can occur as private sectors might not be incentivized to deliver them as they may not see profit from these goods due to their non-excludable and non-rivalrous characters.

What are the challenges related to public goods?

The difficulty of getting individual users to contribute to the cost of public goods can lead to what is termed the free-rider problem. Additionally, determining the appropriate quantity and quality of public goods can be challenging due to the diversity of public needs and wants.

What is the free-rider problem?

The free-rider problem occurs when individuals benefit from a public good without paying for it, leading to potential overuse or underfunding of the public good.

How are public goods funded?

Public goods are usually funded through taxation. The government collects taxes from the public and uses these funds to provide public goods and services.

Related Finance Terms

  • Non-excludability
  • Non-rivalrous consumption
  • Externality
  • Public provision
  • Free-rider problem

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