Course

Public Goods : Goods that are nonexcludable and nonrival. It is impossible to prevent non-payers from benefiting from the good (nonexcludable), and the cost of

Public Goods: Goods that are nonexcludable and nonrival. It is impossible to prevent non-payers from benefiting from the good (nonexcludable), and the cost of providing the good for one additional consumer is zero (nonrival). This is from the video “Public Goods and Asteroid Defense” in the Principles of Microeconomics course.

Options

Transcript

The world nearly ended on September 29th, 2004. That's when the asteroid Toutatis narrowly missed the planet. An asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs and it could end humanity as well. In fact, your probability of dying from an asteroid strike is about the same as your probability of dying from an airplane crash.


Now, the probability that a big asteroid will hit the planet is very low, but if one does hit, it's probably gonna kill everyone. So, the risk is actually much higher than it appears. So, can the Invisible Hand protect us from asteroids? Sadly, no. A good, like Asteroid Protection, has some unusual properties that challenge markets. If you pay for a pair of jeans, for example, then you get the exclusive use of those jeans. And if you don't pay, you are excluded from using those jeans. That's pretty obvious.


But Asteroid Protection is different. Asteroid Protection is non-excludable: even people who don't pay will be protected. So, think about whether you want to pay for Asteroid Protection. Your payment is probably not going to make a difference between a successful and an unsuccessful defense. So, there are really only two cases to consider: either enough other people pay so that you are protected, or enough other people don't pay so that you aren't protected. Either way, whether you pay or not doesn't determine whether you get the protection or not. But paying does determine whether you get the jeans. Faced with this logic, many people may decide to buy the jeans and try to "free ride" on the kindness of others who pay for Asteroid Protection.


But if lots of people free ride, then no one is protected, even if asteroids threaten everyone. Asteroid Protection is an example of what economists call a public good: a good that is non-excludable and also non-rival, meaning that it doesn't cost more to protect more people.

Ask a Question

Please register or login to ask a question