Global Commons, Collective Goods, Free Riders, and Destruction of the Commons
“goods such as safe drinking water from which everyone benefits.”
National security is a collective good from which everyone within a
country benefits regardless of how much they contribute (in taxes or service in
the military). An open
international economy is viewed as a collective good by most economists.
But, as we stated earlier, an open international economy is not a self
sustaining condition. Free
those who exploit a common good. A
country which imposes trade restrictions for a particular sector of its
industry, and gets away with it, benefits from the free trade policies existing
in other countries. The cooperation
needed to maintain a common good is difficult to achieve without rules and
someone to enforce the rules (the hegemon).
played the leadership role in the world economy from 1815 to 1914.
The U.S. has assumed this role after World War II.
In the interwar period the system of free trade broke down. (Charles
Kindleberger 1973) (Kegley & Wittkopf, World Politics, 8th
Ed., pp. 257 - 258).
GLOBAL COMMONS AND PUBLIC GOODS
"International goods are benefits (such as security, access to markets, or the ability to fish the oceans) that states can provide their citizens only through interaction with other states--through global public policy. Three characteristics of international goods frequently complicate the efforts of states to formulate global public policy and guarantee international goods to their citizens." (pp. 250 - 251).
1. Rivalry "characterizes a good when only one individual or state can benefit from a unit of the good." Ex: territory. Zero sum game
2. Non-excludability "characterizes a good when it is impossible to deny access to other individuals or states." Ex: can't fence in atmosphere.
3. Congestion "characterizes a good when the consumption of units of a good interferes with the ability of others to obtain units of it." Ex: over-killing of fish or whales.
There are four types of international goods: Private Goods; Coordination Goods; Common Property Resources; and Pure Public Goods.
Private goods: rivalry and excludability; problem: defining property rights.
Common property resources: rivalry and non-excludability; problem: overexploitation; problem can be solved by privatization (if possible, ex: extending exclusive fisheries zone to 200 miles off shore) or common agreement to limit exploitation; Tragedy of the Commons
Coordination goods: non-rivalry and excludability; cooperative action creates the good; agreement for an international postal union; deviant behavior can be punished by excluding state from benefits.
Pure Public Goods: non-rivalry and non-excludability; very small category. Ex: access to radio waves or access to knowledge; Not even the air is a pure public good, ex: air pollution; As long as congestion is low, many common property resources appear as if they were pure public goods.
Problems of Collective Action.
"Both pure and impure public goods . . . , like whales and clean air, are at least initially "natural" and simply free for the taking, others, like global satellite communication services, exist only as a result of state action. Moreover, when "natural" goods become congested and needs for regulatory systems arise, only collective state action will assure consistent access to the good. Thus the provision of large numbers of international goods requires COLLECTIVE ACTION. The general problem that arises surrounding collective action is UNDERPROVISION. Especially when excludability is not an option (as with common property resources and pure public goods), states have little incentive to contribute to the costs of the collective action and the provision of the COLLECTIVE GOOD. Instead, they prefer to FREE RIDE, to partake of the good without contribution. There are even sometimes costs associated with the initial provision of a coordination good (with excludability) that states would prefer someone else paid." (pp. 255-6).
In a PRIVILEGED GROUP "one or more members has a private incentive to provide some level of the collective good to the benefit of all." Ex: Limiting fluorocarbon emissions to protect the ozone in the atmosphere by highly industrialized countries. A SPOILER is a free rider so large that it frustrates efforts by the privileged group. Ex: China increasing production of fluorocarbons for refrigeration. SIDE PAYMENTS are exchanges among the members of a coalition to equalize any inequalities arising from their cooperation." Ex: Highly industrialized nations making advanced technology available to China as an alternate refrigerant.