A public good is a good that is non-rivalrous and non-excludable. In this context good means a material object, product, or service; non-rivalrous means that my having or using the good does not preclude your having or using the good at the same time; and non-excludable means that no one can effectively be prevented from having or using the good.
National defense is an example of a public good. Healthcare is a private good (rivalrous and excludable); fish stocks are a common good (rivalrous but non-excludable); satellite television is a club good (non-rivalrous but excludable). All of the foregoing are definitional. Debating them is a waste of breath (or keystokes).
I’ve recently realized that a lot of what I’ve written about higher education over the years can be summed up in one sentence: make higher education a public good.
Right now the Congress is debating extending the present interest rate of 3.4% on student loans at the cost of about $6 billion. Currently, it’s slated to jump to 6.8% in July. Why not make it zero? Make higher education a public good.
We have the technology. We can make it stronger, faster. We can also make it non-rivalrous and non-excludable and a heckuva lot cheaper than what we’re paying now.
When I say this I don’t mean to make the current high educational system free. If I were I would be saying to subsidize at 100% the present private good higher educational system.
No, I mean make it non-rivalrous and non-excludable. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this can be done and there are several for-profit organizations that are providing higher education as a club good even as I type this. Take the next step.
Make higher education a public good.