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Public Goods Dilemma

Definition

Public goods dilemma refers to a real-world decision whereby the outcome for any individual depends on the decisions of all involved parties. More specifically, these dilemmas are decisions in which individuals must weigh personal interests against the collective interest, which is typically a communal resource, a public good.

Examples of Public Goods Dilemmas

Real-world public goods dilemmas are quite common. For example, the existence of public radio stations is based on listener donations, but any one individual can save money by listening without contributing. Voting, actions by the United Nations, and many environmental problems are all examples of public goods dilemmas.

One of the original public goods dilemmas is Garrett Hardin's “Tragedy of the Commons.” In his example, a community uses a common pasture to graze sheep. ...

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