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Well, put.

Many so-called democratic socialists in North America have yet to internalize the lessons of the Tragedy of the Commons. As a result, popular public services that are rivalrous and excludable become quickly congested and worth less to individual recipients; public assets decline in quality and value.

At the end of the day, the public sector is weakened; support for the public sector weakens. That is surely not what democratic socialists initially intended.

Elsewhere, as news and entertainment converge increasingly towards pure public goods, CBC, Radio-Canada and the National Film Board (NFB) are providing more and better services through their web-sites.

To seek clarification: By marginal costs of production, I trust you mean that government should set prices equal to the marginal social cost of production.

It seems to me that a bigger problem than electricity or water pricing is road/congestion pricing. Highways are often useless because they are given away for free. I have had interminable arguments with people who think that they should continue to be free because they were paid for through gas taxes (it doesn't matter if this is true, obviously). I don't understand why people can't grasp this concept...

Stephen, Yes.

I'm seriously thinking that we should try to eliminate the concept of public goods from the economics curriculum - see my rant on the subject "why public goods are a pedagogical bad",http://www.carleton.ca/economics/cep/cep06-06.pdf.

The whole idea of public goods in its standard presentation seems almost deliberately to confuse publicly provided goods, non-excludable goods and non-rival goods. Students get confused because there's so many different concepts mixed up together.

Plus the public goods concept leads to abstraction, because only when something is viewed in the most abstract sense can it be seen as purely non-rival and non-excludable. Leading to, for example, lines like this classic from the Rosen Public Finance text 'What's the difference between national defence and pizza." I don't know -pizza is more delicious and comes with creamy garlic dipping sauce? (it surely is not that pizza is non-excludable, at least not in my house).

It's interesting how, once a problem is framed in terms of externalities rather than public goods there's an entirely different range of policy prescriptions - subsidies or taxes, creation of markets, etc etc. And how much easier it is to teach students about externalities than about public goods - and how much easier it is to think of realistic problems (although Radiohead did the public econ teaching world a huge favour with their 'download our album and pay what you want' pricing scheme).

Frances

it surely is not that pizza is non-excludable, at least not in my house

Heh. All parents - and particularly parents of sons - know exactly what you mean!

The link isn't working, though. Could you try again?

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