Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Market Failure Misnomer

In the latest issue of Georgetown Public Policy Review, a journal where public policy makers are the intended audience, I argue that externalities and public goods should be discussed as institutional failures rather than market failures. I believe "market failure" language directs thinking towards nudging the market or abandoning it completely, when the root of the problem is an underlying failure of legal, political, or cultural institutions. Here is the abstract:
Two of the most recognized and discussed “market” failures in public policy exist when spillover effects on third parties exist to market transactions, and when individuals can enjoy the benefit of a good or service without paying for its provision. In this essay I illustrate these forms of market failures are actually institutional failures to adequately assign property rights. Recognizing this and framing them as a problem of property rights has helped economists and policy makers discover various innovative solutions that were previously overlooked. Policy makers who similarly frame these difficult problems as such, may themselves contribute to the ever expanding domain of new solutions.
It is a short essay, about 5 pages double spaced.

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