Public Goods

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Public goods are both unique and fascinating because it is virtually impossible to allocate a pure public good through market mechanisms. This chapter explores public goods and presents the criteria that can be used to identify public goods and to differentiate them from other types of goods. It looks at the purest public goods, which are conveniently called pure public goods. The chapter discusses why the characteristics of these purest of public goods make it extremely difficult to provide them through markets. The concept of public goods appears under several different terms in academic literature, including pure public goods, collective consumption goods, and social goods. There are at least two definitions for public goods. The first is loose, casual, and imprecise but immediately easy to understand. The second is precise and abstract, and it requires subsequent additional definitions to clarify. Impure goods occupy the vast area between pure public goods and pure private goods.