What are Public Goods?

Written by Alina Naismith, WLLC 2015-2016

Within the comprehensive article Re-thinking the Definition of “Public goods”, Sekera gives a statement suggesting that public goods are “socially constructed according to what is perceived as a public need” instead of having a universal definition. This definition challenges the upheld concept that the public good revolves around “inherent characteristics of non-excludability and non-rivalry”.

At first glance at this article, I realized I had an extremely basic concept of public goods in mind: an event or activity that aids the community. However, after reading through, I understand that it is much more complex in the sense that there are specific properties given, which are non-excludability (meaning it is impossible to exclude individuals from consumption) and non-rival (goods are intangible).

When searching for examples this concept outside of Sekera’s article, I came to realize that public goods are actually not always “goods”: it could include clean air, national defense, street lights, lighthouses, or even a fireworks show. Within recent wellness classes, we have learned about volunteerism, communication, conflict, and how to effectively create a service project with our particular organization that will be “sustainable” and “beneficial” to certain groups of people.

My group’s project at Fisher, which at this point is a gardening and yoga “mindfulness” program, directly connects to the set qualities of the public good. I am immensely excited to implement this idea within the classrooms of Fisher, because I know it will benefit the children as well as teachers at the early learning center. And that’s what is most important in the public good – helping those around you and making their lives safer, happier, and more enriching overall.

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