Public Goods and Public Interests: Is There a Connection?

Author: Vitaly TAMBOVTSEV

Abstract. This article examines the validity of statements found in the literature that public and merit goods are the purview of objective public interests and that it is precisely the properties of these goods that determine the need for their public funding. The author analyzes the history of these concepts and their role in the theory of public finance. He shows that the link between public goods and public interests is not borne out in practice.

Keywords: public goods, merit goods, public interests.

JEL: D72, H11, H41, H42, H50.

People, as boundedly rational agents, often act under the influence of information received from sources they trust without trying to verify this information: they see such verification as too costly, and the possible negative consequences of trust as not very significant. Language, a complex and developing system, has many regularities. In particular, if the meaning of words changes, it changes slowly. As a rule, words continue to be used in their conventional sense but acquire new shades of meaning, which gradually become basic. Another regularity is the use of everyday words as scientific terms. In such cases, the meanings of one and the same word may differ significantly, which is why the context (scientific text or everyday speech) becomes important.

Due to a confusion of contexts, the mass perception of a scientific term is often very different from the meaning given to it by the author of a text or statement. As a result, people's ignorance of the strict meaning of scientific terms can be used opportunistically: to validate statements that are not actually true because the "validation" is based on the difference in the meanings of the word as a term and as an "ordinary" word.


V. Tambovtsev, D. Sc. (Economics), professor, chief research associate, Faculty of Economics, Lomonosov Moscow State University (Moscow). This article was first published in Russian in the journal ...

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