Public goods

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1. Pure public goods - economics.

Historically, examples of 'pure' public goods included flood control, street lighting, policing, national defence.

Other examples include certain types of infrastructure, like public roads.

The definition of public goods includes non-rivalry and non-excludability.

Non-rivalry means that when a public good is enjoyed, it doesn’t reduce the amount available for other people.

Non-excludability means that it is not possible both to provide such a good and prevent others enjoying it.

For this reason, 'pure' public goods are more likely to be efficiently provided by the public sector, rather than by the private sector.

Outside of pure economics, it is now much more common for the term public goods to mean one or other of the two related definitions below.

2. Other services and infrastructure.

By extension, 'public goods' may also refer to any services which - its advocates argue - should be provided by the public sector, whether or not they are 'pure' public goods in the sense defined above.

Examples include health and education services.

3. Other services and infrastructure - banking.

By a further extension, 'public goods' also - and now commonly - means services designed expressly to be made available to the public without charge.

For example, the BIS Innovation Hub describes its function as being to develop "public goods in the technology space to support central banks and improve the functioning of the financial system."

See also