The EcoPort Foundation
What is the difference between a 'public service' and a 'public good'?
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Questions, comments and suggestions: t.putter@ecoport.org

In many countries, when people speak of 'the Public Service' they refer to government services; to the things that governments do using tax-payer's money. Many of the products of 'public service' result in public goods such as roads, public health services schools and others. Most of the UN agencies are inter-government organizations and as such they could be considered as being 'supra-national' public services, that produce public good as a desirable outcome but not as a predicating definition of their purpose and structure.

Public service is often contrasted to the effort of individuals and businesses who pursue 'private good' measured in terms of personal and individual wealth. In this sector, individuals invest and use their own funds and resources and therefore expect to make a private and personal profit that they wish to distribute and use as they see fit, no matter how 'selfish' others may deem their consumption.

A pubic good, is something new; a third alternative to public service and private good inasmuch as public goods can be produced and managed by both the private- and public-sectors, but above all because public goods are formally defined in terms of three attributes; i.e. they are:

  • non-rivalrous
  • non-exclusive; and,
  • transparent.

(See also the article by Joseph Stiglitz on Knowledge as a Global Public Good.)

Charitable donations are a fourth dimension of socioeconomic enterprise in addition to public service, private good and public goods as described above. Charitable action is most 'naturally' empathetic to public good systems and services.

By definition, EcoPort is a pure global public good: a state that is made very efficient because our primary product, digital information and knowledge is infinitely fungible. We are also an institution rather than an organization (sensu: Douglas North ('Structure and Change in Economic History'), and thus the EcoPort Foundation is a values-based, not-for-profit enterprise that is neither managed as an inter-government entity nor as a commercial or for-profit enterprise.