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Public Good

In countries around the world, the state is the main supplier of educational services. State provision is often justified on the grounds that education is a public good. This entry reviews the economist’s definition of public goods, explains why education is not in fact a public good under this definition, and identifies other justifications for state provision of educational services.

For economists, pure public goods have two main attributes: They are nonrival and nonexcludable in consumption. To say that a public good is nonrival in consumption is to say that one person’s consumption of the good does not diminish the quantity or quality of the good that is available for the consumption of others; the marginal cost of additional consumption is zero. Adding new listeners to ...

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