Re-thinking the Definition of “Public Goods”
The following article By June Sekera gives an extensive account of how the concept of the “public good” has been undermined and redefined as a market failure.
The introductory paragraph is below and the remainder of the article can be found at http://rwer.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/re-thinking-the-definition-of-public-goods/
A year ago last May, the Real World Economics Review blog published my post, “Why Aren’t We Talking About Public Goods?” In that article I argued that we need to revive and reframe the concept of public goods. A concept of public goods is immensely important because:
- The absence of a widely-held, constructive idea of public goods in public discourse denies citizens the ability to have an informed conversation, or to make informed decisions, about things that matter mightily to the quality of their lives and their communities.
- Its absence robs public policy makers, leaders and managers of the concept that is most central to the reason for their being.
- The current economics definition of public goods feeds and supports the marketization and privatization of government, and the consequent undermining of governments’ ability to operate.
Since last May I have met with economists and other social scientists across the US and in the UK and have been in discussion with people responding to my post from several other countries. I have also been conducting further research.
In this post I summarize the results of my discussions and findings to date and offer for consideration some criteria for a possible “instrumental” definition of public goods. Ultimately, an instrumental definition of public goods must be accompanied by a concordant theory of non-market production in the public economy. Both are needed to ground an improved theory and practice of governance.