Government Schools: Public Good or Public Bad?

revised and upgraded . . .


It is important to agree upon definitions. Public goods, as the term is used by professional economists, are both nonexcludable and nonrivalrous.

The typical school is an enclosed building with classrooms, which have doors. Those outside the door do not learn from or benefit from that class, except indirectly. This education is therefore an excludable good. Contrast this with a radio broadcast signal – once broadcast, anybody can obtain the full benefit of the signal. One way to solve the problem of funding such a good is to package a public bad – advertisements – for which one may obtain compensation, with the public good – the programming. Another is to use technology – cable TV is encrypted; one must pay to unlock the decryption device.

Classrooms are not broadcast mechanisms; the product (education) is delivered only to a select few, and the marginal cost of new customers is nonzero…

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