Public Goods and Commons Problems

… a core topic in Economic Analysis and Atlas102

PublicGoodsMatrixTopic description

This topic deals with public goods and commons problems.

The treatment of this topic on the Atlas follows almost precisely that in Chapter 14, Public Goods and the Tragedy of the Commonsin the open access Principles of Microeconomics course offered by Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok at the Marginal Revolution University online education platform (, accessed 30 April 2016).

Topic learning outcome

Appropriately utilize and interpret results of applying to the analysis of public policy and management problems the basic principles of public goods, including following core concepts.

Core concepts associated with this topic
Public Good

Club Good

Common Resource

Free Riding

Forced Rider

Excludable Good

Non-excludable Good

Rival Good

Non-rival Good

Tragedy of the Commons


We believe that this topic and its core concepts can be mastered to the MPP/MPA level by watching and re-watching the 27 minutes of MRU course videos listed below  and doing the 28 sample questions associated with these video segments and reproduced at the bottom of this page and repeated on the appropriate concept pages.

Atlas pages: Public Goods and Commons Problems and associated Concepts.

Alex Tabarrok, Public Goods and Asteroid Defense, Marginal Revolution University, 2-minute video, at, accessed 4 May 2016.

Alex Tabarrok, A Deeper Look at Public Goods, Marginal Revolution University, 8-minute video, at, accessed 4 May 2016.

Alex Tabarrok, Club Goods, Marginal Revolution University, 5-minute video, at, accessed 4 May 2016.

Alex Tabarrok, The Tragedy of the Commons, Marginal Revolution University, 12-minute video, at, accessed 4 May 2016. 

Recommended reading in MPP and MPA programs

University of Toronto: PPG-1002

Varian, Hal R., and Jack Repcheck. Intermediate microeconomics: a modern approach. Vol. 6. New York, NY: WW Norton & Company, 2010. Chapter 36 (p. 695-718).

Carleton Unversity: PADM-5111

Frank, Robert, Ian Parker, and Igela Alger. Microeconomics and Behaviour, 5th Canadian Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2013. Chapter 16 and 18.

Harvard Kennedy School: API-101

Pindyck, Robert S. and Daniel L. Rubinfeld. Microeconomics, 8th Edition. Prentice-Hall, 2012. Chapter 18 (661-690).

NYU Wagner: GP-1018

Krugman, Paul and R. Wells. Microeconomics, 3rd edition. London: Worth Publishers, 2012. Chapters 6 and 7 (up to p. 201).

Johnson-Shoyama: JS-805

Krugman, Paul, Robin Wells, and Anthony Myatt. Microeconomics: 1st Canadian Edition. London: Worth Publishers, 2006. Chapters 18 – 20.

Weimer, David L. and Aidan R. Vining. Policy Analysis, 5th edition. London: Longman Publishers, 2011. Chapters 5 – 7.

George Washington: PPPA-6003

Mankiw, N. Gregory. Principles of Microeconomics, 6th edition. Mason: South-Western College Publishers, 2011. Chapters 10 and 11.

Wheelan, Charles. Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010. Chapter 3.

American: PAUD-630

Krugman, Paul and R. Wells. Microeconomics, 3rd edition. London: Worth Publishers, 2012. Chapter 17.


Goolsbee, Austan, Steven Levitt, and Chad Syverson. Microeconomics. New York: Worth Publishers, 2013.

Rutgers- Economics in Public Policy

Pindyck, Robert S., and D. Rubinfeld. Microeconomics, 7th edition. Upper Saddle River: Patience-Hall, 2007. Chapter 18.

Assessment questions

From,,, accessed 10 May 2016.

AQ102.11.01. What is the logic behind free riding?

AQ102.11.05. For each of the following items, decide first if the good is rival or nonrival and then whether it is excludable or non-excludable. Apples

AQ102.11.16. Some media companies (especially in music and movie industries) run ads claiming that downloading or copying media is the same thing as stealing a CD or DVD from a store. Let’s see if this is the case. Is a DVD a rival good?

AQ102.11.21. At some restaurants and grocery stores, you can buy bison burgers made from farm-raised bison. Is this good news or bad news if we want more bison around?

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 16 May 2016.

Image: Minute 1:50 of MRU Video, at, accessed 4 May 2016.