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Economics principles tools and applications 9th by sullivan sheffrin perez chapter 30

Economics

NINTH EDITION

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Chapter 30

Public Goods and
Public Choice

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Learning Objectives

30.1 Define a public good and the free rider problem.
30.2 Define an external benefit from a private good.
30.3 Describe the median-voter rule and its consequences for public policy.

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▼FIGURE 30.1
Spending Programs for Local, State, and Federal Governments

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▼FIGURE 30.2
Revenue Sources for Local, State, and Federal Governments

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30.1 EXTERNAL BENEFITS AND PUBLIC GOODS (1 of 2)

External benefit
A benefit from a good experienced by someone other than the person who buys the good.

Public Goods and the Free-Rider Problem
Public good
A good that is available for everyone to consume, regardless of who pays and who doesn't; a good that is nonrival in consumption and nonexcludable.

Private good
A good that is consumed by a single person or household; a good that is rival in consumption and excludable.

Free rider
A person who gets the benefit from a good but does not pay for it.

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30.1 EXTERNAL BENEFITS AND PUBLIC GOODS (2 of 2)

Overcoming the Free-Rider Problem
Successful organizations use a number of techniques to encourage people to contribute:
Giving contributors private goods such as coffee mugs, books, musical recordings, and magazine subscriptions.
Arranging matching contributions.
Appealing to a person’s sense of civic or moral responsibility.


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APPLICATION 1

CLEARING SPACE DEBRIS
APPLYING THE CONCEPTS #1: How can we respond to the free-rider problem?
NASA estimates that over 20,000 pieces of junk at least as large as a softball are orbiting the earth. There are roughly 300,000 pieces of orbiting junk large
enough to destroy an operating satellite on impact. In 2009, an iridium communications satellite was demolished in a collision with an old Russian satellite.
GPS, which employs satellites to provide precise timing and navigation signals are at risk from collisions with orbital junk.
The clearing of space debris is a public good that is subject to the free-rider problem. If one nation clears space debris and thus prevents collisions that would
disrupt Earth activities, the benefits would go to people throughout the world.
The solution will require international cooperation, to develop debris-clearing technology and to implement a system to pay for the cleanup.

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APPLICATION 2

GLOBAL WEATHER OBSERVATION
APPLYING THE CONCEPTS #2: What happens when external benefits spill across international borders?
As another example of a public good, consider global weather observation. In this case, information gathered by one country generates external benefits when
it is shared with other countries.
Satellites, nomadic buoys, and weather stations monitor weather in different parts of the world, but no single organization gathers all the information to reveal
the big weather picture.
Another problem is that the uninhabited parts of the world, in particular the vast oceans of the southern hemisphere, receive little monitoring.
In recent years, the United States has taken the lead in encouraging cooperation and the sharing of data collected by different organizations around the world.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), early warnings of a change in the current in 1997–98 reduced damage to the
California economy by about $1.1 billion.

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30.2 PRIVATE GOODS WITH EXTERNAL BENEFITS (1 of 3)

External Benefits from Education
Education generates three sorts of external benefits:
Workplace externalities. When a well-educated person joins a work team, the productivity of everyone on the team increases.
Civic externalities. A well-educated person is more likely to vote intelligently, so there are external benefits for other citizens.
Crime externalities. Educated people earn higher legal incomes and thus commit less crime.

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30.2 PRIVATE GOODS WITH EXTERNAL BENEFITS (2 of 3)

External Benefits and the Marginal
Principle
Education (represented here as the number of books read)
generates external benefits, so the marginal social benefit
exceeds the marginal private benefit.
Using books as an example of education, an individual picks
point a, where the marginal private benefit equals the marginal
cost.
Point b is the socially efficient point, where the marginal social
benefit equals the marginal cost.

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30.2 PRIVATE GOODS WITH EXTERNAL BENEFITS (3 of 3)

External Benefits and the Marginal Principle
MARGINAL PRINCIPLE
Increase the level of an activity as long as its marginal benefit exceeds its marginal cost. Choose the level at which the marginal benefit equals the
marginal cost.

Other Private Goods That Generate External Benefits
The government subsidizes other goods that generate external benefits. Subsidies for on-the-job training and education encourage workers and firms to invest
in human capital and increase labor productivity.
It is sensible for the government to subsidize training and education because some of the benefits are transferred to other firms when workers change
employers.
Research at universities and other nonprofit organizations provides knowledge or technology that leads to the development of new products or the improvement
of old ones.

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APPLICATION 3

EXTERNAL BENEFITS FROM LOJACK
APPLYING THE CONCEPTS #3: What private goods generate external benefits?
LoJack is a private good that generates external benefits.
A study by two economists estimated the private and external benefits from LoJack:
For every three LoJack systems installed, the number of auto thefts decreases by one car per year.
The external benefit from fewer vehicle thefts is about $1,300 per LoJack per year.
The benefits are experienced by people who don’t buy their own LoJack systems but who benefit because thieves can never be sure whether a particular car is
protected by LoJack or not.

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APPLICATION 4

THE PRIVATE AND EXTERNAL BENEFIT OF TREES
APPLYING THE CONCEPTS #4: What happens when neighbors benefit?
Mature trees have private costs and both private and social benefits.
The initial cost of purchasing and planting a seedling is low, but the opportunity cost of growing the tree may be large.
The benefits of shade, improved air quality, and aesthetics go to the property owner and the neighbors.

•The owners house value increases by $7,000.
•Neighbors within 100 feet have a total value increase of $13,000

.

The equilibrium number of trees is less than the socially efficient number, so some cities subsidize the purchase of trees.

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30.3 PUBLIC CHOICE AND THE MEDIAN VOTER (1 of 5)

Public-choice economics
A field of economics that uses models of rational choice to explore decision making in the public sector.

Voting and the Median-Voter Rule
Median-voter rule
The choices made by the government will match the preferences of the median voter.

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30.3 PUBLIC CHOICE AND THE MEDIAN VOTER (2 of 5)

Voting and the Median-Voter Rule
If Penny proposes a $3 billion budget and Buck proposes a $7
billion budget, the election will result in a tie.
By moving toward the median budget, Penny can increase her
chance of being elected.
In equilibrium, both candidates will propose a budget close to the
$5 billion preferred budget of the median voter.

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30.3 PUBLIC CHOICE AND THE MEDIAN VOTER (3 of 5)

The Median Voter and the Median Location
If one starts at the ¼ mark and one starts at the ¾ mark they
each cover ½ mile and each sells 60 cones.

If Lefty moves to the 5/8 mark, he sells 75 cones compared to 45
for Righty.

Righty can recover by moving to the median location. In
equilibrium, both locate at the median mark and split the territory.

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30.3 PUBLIC CHOICE AND THE MEDIAN VOTER (4 of 5)

Alternative Models of Government: Self-Interest and Special Interests
Several economists, including Nobel Laureate James Buchanan, have suggested a model of government that focuses on the selfish behavior of government
officials. According to this view, politicians and bureaucrats pursue their own narrow interests, which, of course, may differ from the public interest.
The self-interest theory of government explains why voters sometimes approve explicit limits on taxes and government spending.
According to the self-interest theory of government, limitations on taxes and spending are necessary safeguards against politicians and bureaucrats who
benefit from larger budgets.
Another model of government is based on the idea that small groups of people manipulate government for their own gain.
Whenever benefits are concentrated on a few citizens but costs are spread out over many, we expect special-interest groups to form. Special-interest
organizations often use lobbyists to express their views to government officials and policymakers.

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30.3 PUBLIC CHOICE AND THE MEDIAN VOTER (5 of 5)

Which Theory Is Correct?
Economists and political scientists have studied many dimensions of the decision-making processes underlying tax policies and spending
policies.
There is evidence that people do vote with ballots and with their feet, and that these two forms of voting make a difference.
There is also evidence that government officials sometimes pursue their own interests and those of special-interest groups.
The field of public choice is a very active area of research for both economists and political scientists.

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APPLICATION 5

THE MEDIAN VOTER IN THE NBA
APPLYING THE CONCEPTS #5: What is the median-voter rule?
The National Basketball Association (NBA) uses labor agreements between players and owners to control player salaries. In the absence of a collective
bargaining agreement regarding salaries, the market equilibrium would generate very high salaries for a small number of superstar players.
Labor agreements are approved by majority rule, and as in other voting environments, the winning proposals reflect the preferences of the median voter,
defined in this case as the player with the median salary. To predict the outcome of a vote between two competing labor agreements, we can ask, Which
agreement does the median player prefer?
Recent NBA agreements use salary caps and other provisions to shift salary money away from the superstars in favor of less super players, including the
median player. For the 1997 agreement, all players with salaries below the median salary gained from the agreement, and the largest gains went to
players with salaries closest to the median salary.

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KEY TERMS

External benefit
Free rider
Median-voter rule
Private good
Public-choice economics
Public good

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