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Public Goods, Property Rights, and Political Organizations

Duncan Snidal
International Studies Quarterly
Vol. 23, No. 4 (Dec., 1979), pp. 532-566
Published by: Wiley on behalf of The International Studies Association
DOI: 10.2307/2600328
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2600328
Page Count: 35
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Public Goods, Property Rights, and Political Organizations
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Abstract

This article explores the definition of public goods in order to highlight and examine the political issues central to public goods provision. The two defining properties of public goods, jointness in supply and nonexclusiveness, are discussed and shown to be logically interdependent. By distinguishing between nonexclusiveness and noncontrol over exclusion, the definition is recast to show the important role of property rights in public goods situations. Issues of optimality and fairness are discussed to clarify some of the confusion surrounding the problem of centralized provision. Finally, the concept of a quasi-public good (where exclusionary mechanisms are imposed on an erstwhile public good) is used to analyze the role of political organizations in public goods provision. The failure to deal adequately with public goods problems at the international level can be understood in terms of the weakness of political organizations at that level.

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