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The free rider problem of public goods

Private companies find it difficult to produce public goods. If a good or service is nonexcludable, like national defense, so that it is impossible or very costly to exclude people from using this good or service, then how can a firm charge people for it?

Visit this website to read about a connection between free riders and “bad music.”

When individuals make decisions about buying a public good, a free rider    problem can arise, in which people have an incentive to let others pay for the public good and then to “free ride” on the purchases of others. The free rider problem can be expressed in terms of the prisoner’s dilemma game, which is discussed as a representation of oligopoly in Monopolistic Competition and Oligopoly . Say that two people are thinking about contributing to a public good: Rachel and Samuel. When either of them contributes to a public good, such as a local fire department, their personal cost of doing so is $4 and the social benefit of that person’s contribution is $6. Because society’s benefit of $6 is greater than the cost of $4, the investment is a good idea for society as a whole. The problem is that, while Rachel and Samuel pay for the entire cost of their contribution to the public good, they receive only half of the benefit, because the benefit of the public good is divided equally among the members of society. This sets up the prisoner’s dilemma illustrated in [link] .

Contributing to a public good as a prisoner’s dilemma
Samuel (S) Contribute Samuel (S) Do Not Contribute
Rachel (R) Contribute R pays $4, receives $6, net gain +$2
S pays $4, receives $6, net gain +$2
R pays $4, receives $3, net gain –$1
S pays $0, receives $3, net gain +$3
Rachel (R) Do Not Contribute R pays $0, receives $3, net gain +$3
S pays $4, receives $3, net gain –$1
R pays $0, receives $0
S pays $0, receives $0

If neither Rachel nor Samuel contributes to the public good, then there are no costs and no benefits of the public good. Suppose, however, that only Rachel contributes, while Samuel does not. Rachel incurs a cost of $4, but receives only $3 of benefit (half of the total $6 of benefit to society), while Samuel incurs no cost, and yet he also receives $3 of benefit. In this outcome, Rachel actually loses $1 while Samuel gains $3. A similar outcome, albeit with roles reversed, would occur if Samuel had contributed, but Rachel had not. Finally, if both parties contribute, then each incurs a cost of $4 and each receives $6 of benefit (half of the total $12 benefit to society). There is a dilemma with the Prisoner’s Dilemma, though. See the Work it Out feature.

The problem with the prisoner’s dilemma

The difficulty with the prisoner’s dilemma arises as each person thinks through his or her strategic choices.

Step 1. Rachel reasons in this way: If Samuel does not contribute, then I would be a fool to contribute. However, if Samuel does contribute, then I can come out ahead by not contributing.

Step 2. Either way, I should choose not to contribute, and instead hope that I can be a free rider who uses the public good paid for by Samuel.

Step 3. Samuel reasons the same way about Rachel.

Step 4. When both people reason in that way, the public good never gets built, and there is no movement to the option where everyone cooperates—which is actually best for all parties.

Questions & Answers

what is the meaning of function in economics
Effah Reply
Pls, I need more explanation on price Elasticity of Supply
Isaac Reply
Is the degree to the degree of responsiveness of a change in quantity supplied of goods to a change in price
Afran
Discuss the short-term and long-term balance positions of the firm in the monopoly market?
Rabindranath Reply
hey
Soumya
hi
Mitiku
how are you?
Mitiku
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Soumya
through hard study and performing well than expected from you
Mitiku
what should i prepare for it?
Soumya
prepare first, in psychologically as well as potentially to sacrifice what's expected from you, when I say this I mean that you have to be ready, for every thing and to accept failure as a good and you need to change them to potential for achievement of ur goals
Mitiku
parna kya hai behencho?
Soumya
Hallo
Rabindranath
Hello, dear what's up?
Mitiku
cool
Momoh
good morning
Isaac
pls, is anyone here from Ghana?
Isaac
Hw s every one please
Afran
Ys please I'm in Ghana
Afran
what is firms
Anteyi Reply
A firm is a business entity which engages in the production of goods and aimed at making profit.
Avuwada
What is autarky in Economics.
Avuwada
what is choice
Tia Reply
So how is the perfect competition different from others
Rev Reply
what is choice
Tia
please what type of commodity is 1.Beaf 2.Suagr 3.Bread
Alfred Reply
1
Naziru
what is the difference between short run and long run?
Ukpen Reply
It just depends on how far you would like to run!!!🤣🤣🤣
Anna
meaning? You guys need not to be playing here; if you don't know a question, leave it for he that knows.
Ukpen
pls is question from which subject or which course
Ada
Is this not economics?
Ukpen
This place is meant to be for serious educational matters n not playing ground so pls let's make it a serious place.
Docky
Is there an economics expert here?
Docky
Okay and I was being serous
Anna
The short run is a period of time in which the quantity of at least one inputs is fixed...
Anna
that is the answer that I found online and in my text book
Anna
Elacisity
salihu
Meaning of economics
Suraj Reply
It will creates rooms for an effective demands.
Chinedum Reply
different between production and supply
babsnof
Hii
Suraj
hlo
eshita
What is the economic?
Suraj
Economics is a science which study human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which has an alternative use.
Mr
what is supply
babsnof
what is different between demand and supply
Debless Reply
Demand refers to the quantity of products that consumers are willing to purchase at various prices per time while Supply has to do with the quantity of products suppliers are willing to supply at various prices per time. find the difference in between
Saye
Please what are the effects of rationing Effect of black market Effects of hoarding
Atty Reply
monoply is amarket structure charecrized by asingle seller and produce a unique product in the market
Cali Reply
yes
Niraj
I want to know wen does the demand curve shift to the right
Nana
demand curve shifts to the right when there's an increase in price of a substitute or increase in income
kin
ask me anything in economics, I promise to try and do justice to the question, you can send me an email or message, I will answer
kin
what are the factor that change the curve right
Nana
explain the law of supply in simple .....
freshwater
the Law of supply: states that all factor being equal, when the price of a particular goods increase the supply will also increase, as it decreases the supply will also decrease
kin
@Nana the factor that changes or shift the d demand curve to the right is 1) the increase in price of a substitute good or commodity 2) increase in income
kin
you can send your questions I am Comr. Kin chukwuebuka
kin
different between bill of exchange n treasure bill
Nana
yes
Ada
so would you tell me what means an apportunity cost plz?
Cali
what is true cost
Akiti
your question isn't correct naadi
Anthonia
define an apportunity cost?
Cali
orukpe ,is my question whats wrong or u dont know anything?
Cali
In a simple term, it is an Alternative foregone.
Sule
opportunity cost is the next best value of a scale of preference
Akiti
Both of you are not correct.
Nelly
opportunity cost: is a forgone alternative
kin
Monopoly is where is one producer produces a given product with no close substitute
James
what is income effect?
Qwecou Reply
if you borrow $5000 to buy a car at 12 percent compounded monthly to be repaid over the next 4 year what is monthly payment
Nitish Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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