Government businesses, like private businesses, seek to satisfy the needs and wants of the population through the provision of goods and services. Government-produced goods are referred to as public goods. These goods include public education, public safety, and public infrastructure such as bridges and roads among others. So, what are the different dimensions of some of these goods and how do they impact society domestically and internationally?
Public education relates to the form of education, at primary, secondary and post-secondary levels, that is wholly or partly funded, regulated and supported by the government with the aim ensuring provision of inclusive education to the general public (Chand, 2008). Public safety is a public good that involves public safety organizations in coordination with private safety organizations and members of general public in ensuring that public safety issues are addressed (Hyman, 2014). The ultimate goal of this good is to ensure that the public is protected from events that can endanger their safety or cause significant property damage, or public injury or danger. Public infrastructure is a form of infrastructure that is mainly for public use or is under public ownership. Public goods impact society domestically by determining how the needs and wants of national citizens are met, as well as how it affects their lives directly through taxation. Internationally, public good impact society by determining how they relate with people and businesses beyond their national borders and the influence on their social, economic, and political lives (Anomaly, 2015).
Just like in the market systems, demand and supply of public goods is influenced by external, political, economic, and environmental factors. External factors relates to those events that occur outside national boundaries of a country and can affect demand and supply of public goods (Anomaly, 2015). For example, act of terrorism in a neighboring country can impact on the public safety as a public good. Political factors influence demand and supply of public goods through political decisions made by government of the day through public policies, legislations, and regulations (Hyman, 2014). Economic factors determine the costs of providing public goods and if the government has the ability to meet those costs; when the costs are low, the supply of public goods are high and meeting the demands is supply, while if the costs are high, the supply is low and possibility of meeting demand is diminished. Environmental factors such as climate change influence demand and supply of public goods because they affect acts of production and consumption (Chand, 2008).
The Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem is one of the frequently cited theories in regard to the concept of public goods. It holds that the public choice and political institutions formation are central in influencing provision of public good. Therefore, electoral process is a way that choices of citizens try to influence the desired public good (Hyman, 2014). That notwithstanding, this theory argues that it is impossible to have an ideal voting structure which reflects a particular fairness criteria. This argument is informed by the view that a clear preferences order cannot be determined through adherence to compulsory fair voting procedures principles (Chand, 2008). This theory relates not only to the electoral process, but also to other issues that are determined through public choice or political institutions. For example, in a case of giving priority to competing needs within a state, government is often guided by public opinions. Citizens of a particular state may select a location over the other for construction of a public facility like school based on wherethey consider benefiting majority of them. However, while that choice maybe assumed to be fair, this may not be the case because it may end up disenfranchising some sections of the public.
Anomaly, J. (2015). Public Goods and Government Action. Politics, Philosophy & Economics, 14(2) 109-128
Chand, S. N. (2008). Public finance. New Delhi: Altantic Publishers & Distributors.
Hyman,D.N. (2014). Public Finance: A contemporary application of theory to policy (11th Ed.) Connecticut, CT: Cengage.
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