Public goods and private goods

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public goods and private goods

Public Goods, Private Goods by Raymond Geuss

Much political thinking today, particularly that influenced by liberalism, assumes a clear distinction between the public and the private, and holds that the correct understanding of this should weigh heavily in our attitude to human goods. It is, for instance, widely held that the state may address human action in the public realm but not in the private. In Public Goods, Private Goods Raymond Geuss exposes the profound flaws of such thinking and calls for a more nuanced approach. Drawing on a series of colorful examples from the ancient world, he illustrates some of the many ways in which actions can in fact be understood as public or private.


The first chapter discusses Diogenes the Cynic, who flouted conventions about what should be public and what should be private by, among other things, masturbating in the Athenian marketplace. Next comes an analysis of Julius Caesars decision to defy the Senate by crossing the Rubicon with his army; in doing so, Caesar asserted his dignity as a private person while acting in a public capacity. The third chapter considers St. Augustines retreat from public life to contemplate his own, private spiritual condition. In the fourth, Geuss goes on to examine recent liberal views, questioning, in particular, common assumptions about the importance of public dialogue and the purportedly unlimited possibilities humans have for reaching consensus. He suggests that the liberal concern to maintain and protect, even at a very high cost, an inviolable private sphere for each individual is confused.


Geuss concludes that a view of politics and morality derived from Hobbes and Nietzsche is a more realistic and enlightening way than modern liberalism to think about human goods. Ultimately, he cautions, a simplistic understanding of privacy leads to simplistic ideas about what the state is and is not justified in doing.
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Demand for Public Vs Private Goods

Private Good

To do this, two product characteristics need to be examined:. If property rights are not well-defined, four different types of goods can exist: private goods, public goods, congestible goods, and club goods. Excludability refers to the degree to which consumption of a good or service is limited to paying customers. For example, broadcast television exhibits low excludability or is non-excludable because people can access it without paying a fee. On the other hand, cable television exhibits high excludability or is excludable because people have to pay to consume the service. It's worth noting that, in some cases, goods are non-excludable by their very nature. For instance, how would one make the services of a lighthouse excludable?

A free good is a good needed by society but available with no opportunity cost. It is a good without scarcity. For example, air is a free good, because we can breathe it as much as we want. Water is usually another free good. If you live by a river, you can take water without reducing the amount available to others.

Economists refer to private goods as rivalrous and excludable. Private goods are different from public goods, which are available to everyone.
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Content: Difference Between Public Goods and Private Goods

In economics , a public good is a good that is both non-excludable and non-rivalrous in that individuals cannot be excluded from use or could be enjoyed without paying for it, and where use by one individual does not reduce availability to others or the goods can be effectively consumed simultaneously by more than one person. Public goods include knowledge , official statistics , national security , common language s , flood control systems, lighthouses , and street lighting. Public goods that are available everywhere are sometimes referred to as global public goods. Many public goods may at times be subject to excessive use resulting in negative externalities affecting all users; for example air pollution and traffic congestion. Public goods problems are often closely related to the "free-rider" problem, in which people not paying for the good may continue to access it. Thus, the good may be under-produced, overused or degraded.

5 thoughts on “Public Goods, Private Goods by Raymond Geuss

  1. Private good , a product or service produced by a privately owned business and purchased to increase the utility , or satisfaction, of the buyer.

  2. Pure public goods pose a free-rider problem. A pure private good is one for which consumption is rival and from which consumers can be excluded.

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