In economics, a public good refers to a commodity or service that is made available to all members of a society. Typically, these services are administered by governments and paid for collectively through taxation. Examples of public goods include law enforcement, national defense, and the rule of law. Public goods also refer to more basic goods, such as access to clean air and drinking water. 


  • Public goods are commodities or services that benefit all members of society, and which are often provided for free through public taxation. 
  • Public goods are the opposite of private goods, which are inherently scarce and are paid for separately by individuals. 
  • Societies will disagree about which goods should be considered public goods; these differences are often reflected in nations’ government spending priorities.

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