Public Goods and Public Bads

Comments on Mancur Olson's "The Optimal Institutional Mix"

by Daniel Ellsberg

Purchase Print Copy

 FormatList Price Price
Add to Cart Paperback7 pages $20.00 $16.00 20% Web Discount

By reducing the question of the optimal institutional mix to technical problems of efficiency — matters for administration or organizational theory — and by assuming the nature of the "public good" to be produced by government as "given," Mancur Olson abstracts the question from politics. Yet the nature of the good produced cannot be ignored and is an intensely political question. In fact, the production of many public goods also produces "public bads," for example the psychological and social impact of police harassment of ghetto residents in the course of "maintaining order." Olson fails to consider methods of reducing the production of specific public bads, a major consideration in conflicts over the optimal institutional mix.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.