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Public Goods and Market Economic Systems

Explain why public goods would not be supplied in a market economic system.


Economic Systems

CIE IGCSE/O Level October/November 2022 -



Here are some tips for writing an essay on the topic "Public Goods and their Incompatibility with a Market Economic System"⬅:

Understand the concept of public goods⬅: Familiarize yourself with the characteristics of public goods, such as non-excludability and non-rivalry. Understand how these characteristics make public goods different from private goods and the challenges they pose for market-based provision.

Develop a clear thesis statement⬅: Craft a concise thesis statement that clearly states your argument about the incompatibility of public goods with a market economic system. Ensure that your thesis reflects the key points you will discuss in the body of the essay.

Provide a clear introduction⬅: Use the introduction to provide background information on public goods and their significance. Clearly state the purpose of the essay and outline the main points you will address in the body.

Explain the free rider problem⬅: Discuss the concept of the free rider problem in relation to public goods. Explain how non-excludability allows individuals to benefit from public goods without contributing to their provision. Use examples or real-world scenarios to illustrate the free rider problem.

Title⬅: The Conundrum of Supplying Public Goods within a Market Economic System⬅: An Illustrative Examination

This paper sets out to elucidate why public goods might not be effectively furnished within the confines of a market economic system. By dissecting the defining attributes of public goods, specifically non-excludability and non-rivalry, in conjunction with examining the profit-oriented objectives of private enterprises, we can dissect the inherent obstacles that hinder the provision of public goods through market mechanisms.


1. The Free Rider Conundrum and Non-Excludability⬅: An Instance of National Defense⬅:

Public goods, such as national defense, are defined by non-excludability, signifying that it's impractical to exclude individuals who are disinclined to pay for them from using or gaining from them. This leads to a "free rider" dilemma where people can exploit the benefits of the public good without bearing the cost. In a market system propelled by individual profit-seeking, private firms face a challenge in charging for the consumption of public goods like national defense, leading to undersupply or complete absence of provision.

2. Non-Rivalry and the Issue of Charging Additional Consumers⬅: The Case of Public Parks⬅:

Public goods also possess a non-rivalrous nature, which means that one person's use or consumption of the good does not diminish its availability to others. Essentially, when a public good like a city park is supplied to one individual, it becomes accessible to everyone without the feasibility of charging additional consumers. This poses a significant challenge to private sector firms reliant on revenue generation, as they cannot monetize such public goods for each individual consumer.

3. Profit-Oriented Drive and Potential Losses⬅:

Private sector firms in a market economy are driven by profit motives. Their objective is to maximize revenues and minimize costs to ensure financial sustainability. Public goods, such as street lighting, which do not generate direct revenue streams, pose a significant hurdle for firms aiming to recover costs and generate profits. Lacking revenue streams, private firms would be discouraged from producing public goods as it would lead to financial losses, rendering it economically infeasible.


In conclusion, the distinctive characteristics of public goods, namely non-excludability and non-rivalry, present innate challenges within a market economic system. The inability to exclude non-payers and the lack of additional revenue from each individual consumer obstruct private sector firms from supplying public goods. Furthermore, the profit-centric nature of private firms exacerbates the problem, given their focus is on revenue generation and fiscal sustainability. Therefore, alternative strategies, like government intervention and public funding, become imperative to assure the provision of public goods that benefit the entirety of society. By acknowledging the limitations of the market economic system in supplying public goods, policymakers can explore alternative methodologies to guarantee their availability for the collective wellbeing of society.


Start with a brief definition or explanation of public goods to provide context for readers who may be unfamiliar with the concept.
Consider adding a sentence that highlights the importance of public goods for societal well-being and the challenges associated with their provision.
Consider breaking down the body into subsections to address each point in more detail. For example, create separate subsections for the free rider problem, non-rivalry, and profit motivation.
Within each subsection, provide clear and concise explanations of the concepts, supporting them with relevant examples or real-world scenarios. This will help readers understand the challenges faced by private firms in supplying public goods.
Restate the main points discussed in the body paragraphs to reinforce your argument.
Consider adding a sentence that emphasizes the significance of public goods and the need for alternative mechanisms to ensure their provision.
End with a thought-provoking statement or call to action to encourage further consideration of the topic.
By incorporating these suggestions, your essay will have a more engaging and cohesive structure. Remember to use clear and concise language, provide evidence or examples to support your points, and ensure a logical flow between paragraphs. Good luck with your essay!





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