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Tangible goods stacked in a warehouse

In economics, goods are items that satisfy human wants [1] and provide utility, for example, to a consumer making a purchase of a satisfying product. A common distinction is made between goods which are transferable, and services, which are not transferable. [2]


A good is an "economic good" if it is useful to people but scarce in relation to its demand so that human effort is required to obtain it. [3] In contrast, free goods, such as air, are naturally in abundant supply and need no conscious effort to obtain them. Private goods are things owned by people, such as televisions, living room furniture, wallets, cellular telephones, almost anything owned or used on a daily basis that is not food-related.

A consumer good or "final good" is any item that is ultimately consumed, rather than used in the production of another good. For example, a microwave oven or a bicycle that is sold to a consumer is a final good or consumer good, but the components that are sold to be used in those goods are intermediate goods. For example, textiles or transistors can be used to make some further goods.

Commercial goods are construed as tangible products that are manufactured and then made available for supply to be used in an industry of commerce. Commercial goods could be tractors, commercial vehicles, mobile structures, airplanes, and even roofing materials. Commercial and personal goods as categories are very broad and cover almost everything a person sees from the time they wake up in their home, on their commute to work to their arrival at the workplace.

Commodities may be used as a synonym for economic goods but often refer to marketable raw materials and primary products. [4]

Although common goods are tangible, certain classes of goods, such as information, only take intangible forms. For example, among other goods an apple is a tangible object, while news belongs to an intangible class of goods and can be perceived only by means of an instrument such as print or television.

Utility and characteristics of goods

Goods may increase or decrease their utility directly or indirectly and may be described as having marginal utility. Some things are useful, but not scarce enough to have monetary value, such as the Earth's atmosphere, these are referred to as 'free goods'.

In normal parlance, "goods" is always a plural word, [5] [6] but economists have long termed a single item of goods "a good".

In economics, a bad is the opposite of a good. [7] Ultimately, whether an object is a good or a bad depends on each individual consumer and therefore, not all goods are goods to all people.

Types of goods

Types of goods in economics. Types of goods.svg
Types of goods in economics.

Goods' diversity allows for their classification into different categories based on distinctive characteristics, such as tangibility and (ordinal) relative elasticity. A tangible good like an apple differs from an intangible good like information due to the impossibility of a person to physically hold the latter, whereas the former occupies physical space. Intangible goods differ from services in that final (intangible) goods are transferable and can be traded, whereas a service cannot.

Price elasticity also differentiates types of goods. An elastic good is one for which there is a relatively large change in quantity due to a relatively small change in price, and therefore is likely to be part of a family of substitute goods; for example, as pen prices rise, consumers might buy more pencils instead. An inelastic good is one for which there are few or no substitutes, such as tickets to major sporting events,[ citation needed ] original works by famous artists,[ citation needed ] and prescription medicine such as insulin. Complementary goods are generally more inelastic than goods in a family of substitutes. For example, if a rise in the price of beef results in a decrease in the quantity of beef demanded, it is likely that the quantity of hamburger buns demanded will also drop, despite no change in buns' prices. This is because hamburger buns and beef (in Western culture) are complementary goods. It is important to note that goods considered complements or substitutes are relative associations and should not be understood in a vacuum. The degree to which a good is a substitute or a complement depends on its relationship to other goods, rather than an intrinsic characteristic, and can be measured as cross elasticity of demand by employing statistical techniques such as covariance and correlation.

Goods classified by exclusivity and competitiveness

Fourfold model of goods

Goods can be classified based on their degree of excludability and rivalry (competitiveness). Considering excludability can be measured on a continuous scale, some goods would not be able to fall into one of the four common categories used.

There are four types of goods based on the characteristics of rival in consumption and excludability: Public Goods, Private Goods, Common Resources, and Club Goods. [8] These four types plus examples for anti-rivalry appear in the accompanying table. [9]

Excludable Non-excludable
Rivalrous Private goods
food, clothing, cars, parking spaces
Common-pool resources
fish stocks, timber, coal, free public transport
Non-rivalrous Club goods
cinemas, private parks, satellite television, public transport
Public goods
free-to-air television, air, national defense, free and open-source software

Public goods

Goods that are both non-rival and non-excludable are called public goods. In many cases, renewable resources, such as land, are common commodities but some of them are contained in public goods. Public goods are non-exclusive and non-competitive, meaning that individuals cannot be stopped from using them and anyone can consume this good without hindering the ability of others to consume them. Examples in addition to the ones in the matrix are national parks, or firework displays. It is generally accepted by mainstream economists that the market mechanism will under-provide public goods, so these goods have to be produced by other means, including government provision. Public goods can also suffer from the Free-Rider problem.

Private goods

Private goods are excludable goods, which prevent other consumers from consuming them. Private goods are also rivalrous because one good in private ownership cannot be used by someone else. That is to say, consuming some goods will deprive another consumer of the ability to consume the goods. Private goods are the most common type of goods. They include what you have to get from the store. For examples see the examples in the matrix. An individual who consumes an apple denies another individual from consuming the same one. It is excludable because consumption is only offered to those willing to pay the price. [10]

Common-pool resources

Common-pool resources are rival in consumption and non-excludable. An example is that of fisheries, which harvest fish from a shared common resource pool of fish stock. Fish caught by one group of fishermen are no longer accessible to another group, thus being rivalrous. However, oftentimes, due to an absence of well-defined property rights, it is difficult to restrict access to fishermen who may overfish. [11]

Club goods

Club goods are excludable but not rivalrous in the consumption. That is, not everyone can use the good, but when one individual has claim to use it, they do not reduce the amount or the ability for others to consume the good. By joining a specific club or organization we can obtain club goods; As a result, some people are excluded because they are not members. Examples in addition to the ones in the matrix are cable television, golf courses, and any merchandise provided to club members. A large television service provider would already have infrastructure in place which would allow for the addition of new customers without infringing on existing customers viewing abilities. This would also mean that marginal cost would be close to zero, which satisfies the criteria for a good to be considered non-rival. However, access to cable TV services are only available to consumers willing to pay the price, demonstrating the excludability aspect. [12]

Economists set these categories for these goods and their impact on consumers. The government is usually responsible for public goods and common goods, and enterprises are generally responsible for the production of private and club goods. But this pattern does not fit for all the goods as they can intermingle.

History of the fourfold model of goods

In 1977, Nobel winner Elinor Ostrom and her husband Vincent Ostrom proposed additional modifications to the existing classification of goods so to identify fundamental differences that affect the incentives facing individuals. Their definitions are presented on the matrix. [13]

Elinor Ostrom proposed additional modifications to the classification of goods to identify fundamental differences that affect the incentives facing individuals [14]

  1. Replacing the term "rivalry of consumption" with "subtractability of use".
  2. Conceptualizing subtractability of use and excludability to vary from low to high rather than characterizing them as either present or absent.
  3. Overtly adding a very important fourth type of good—common-pool resources—that shares the attribute of subtractability with private goods and difficulty of exclusion with public goods. Forests, water systems, fisheries, and the global atmosphere are all common-pool resources of immense importance for the survival of humans on this earth.
  4. Changing the name of a "club" good to a "toll" good since goods that share these characteristics are provided by small scale public as well as private associations.

Expansion of Fourfold model: Anti-rivalrous

Consumption can be extended to include "Anti-rivalrous" consumption.

Types of goods based on consumption and excludability
RivalrousPrivate GoodCommon-pool good
Non-rivalrousClub / toll GoodPublic Good
Anti-rivalrous"network" good, e.g., data on the internet; good that improves public health"symbiotic" good, e.g., language

Expansion of Fourfold model: Semi-Excludable

The additional definition matrix shows the four common categories alongside providing some examples of fully excludable goods, Semi-excludable goods and fully non-excludeable goods. Semi-excludable goods can be considered goods or services that a mostly successful in excluding non-paying customer, but are still able to be consumed by non-paying consumers. An example of this is movies, books or video games that could be easily pirated and shared for free.

Fully ExcludableSemi-ExcludableFully Non-Excludable
Rivalrous Private Goods

food, clothing, cars, parking spaces

Piracy of copyrighted goods

like movies, books, video games

Common-pool Resources

fish, timber, coal, free public transport

Non-Rivalrous Club Goods

cinemas, private parks, television, public transport

Sharing pay television or streaming subscriptions

to more users than what is being paid for

Public Goods

free-to-air, air, national defense, free and open-source software

Trading of goods

Goods are capable of being physically delivered to a consumer. Goods that are economic intangibles can only be stored, delivered, and consumed by means of media.

Goods, both tangibles and intangibles, may involve the transfer of product ownership to the consumer. Services do not normally involve transfer of ownership of the service itself, but may involve transfer of ownership of goods developed or marketed by a service provider in the course of the service. For example, sale of storage related goods, which could consist of storage sheds, storage containers, storage buildings as tangibles or storage supplies such as boxes, bubble wrap, tape, bags and the like which are consumables, or distributing electricity among consumers is a service provided by an electric utility company. This service can only be experienced through the consumption of electrical energy, which is available in a variety of voltages and, in this case, is the economic goods produced by the electric utility company. While the service (namely, distribution of electrical energy) is a process that remains in its entirety in the ownership of the electric service provider, the goods (namely, electric energy) is the object of ownership transfer. The consumer becomes an electric energy owner by purchase and may use it for any lawful purposes just like any other goods.

See also


  1. Quotation from Murray Milgate, 2008, "Goods and Commodities". In: Palgrave Macmillan (eds) The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics. Palgrave, Macmillan, London., in referencing an influential parallel definition of 'goods' by Alfred Marshall, 1891. Principles of Economics ,1961, 9th ed.Section I, page 54, Macmillan.
  2. Alan V. Deardorff, 2006. Terms Of Trade: Glossary of International Economics, World Scientific. Online version: Deardorffs' Glossary of International Economics, "good" Archived 2013-03-18 at the Wayback Machine and "service". Archived 2017-07-01 at the Wayback Machine
  3. Samuelson, P. Anthony., Samuelson, W. (1980). Economics. 11th ed. / New York: McGraw-Hill.
  4. Alan V. Deardorff, 2006, Deardorffs' Glossary of International Economics "commodity". Archived 2007-12-12 at the Wayback Machine
  5. Oxford English Dictionary
  6. eg: Carriage of Goods by Sea Act, goods vehicle, Sale of Goods Act
  7. Dwivedi, D. N. (2016). Microeconomics: Theory and Applications. Vikas Publishing House PVT LTD. p. 133. ISBN   978-93259-8670-1.
  8. Mankiw, N. Gregory. (2012). Principles of microeconomics (6th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning. ISBN   978-0-538-45304-2. OCLC   742415439.
  9. Pekka Nikander; Ville Eloranta; Kimmo Karhu; Kari Hiekkanen (2 June 2020), Digitalisation, anti-rival compensation and governance: Need for experiments, Wikidata   Q106510738 .
  10. Hubbard, R.G; Garnett, A; Lewis, P; O'Brien, A (2018). Essentials of Economics Ebook. Australia: Pearson Education Australia. p. 351. ISBN   9781488617003.
  11. Perloff, J (2018). Microeconomics, Global Edition (Eighth ed.). Pearson Education Limited. pp. 635–636. ISBN   9781292215693.
  12. Perloff, J (2018). Microeconomics, Global Edition (Eighth ed.). Pearson Education Limited. p. 637. ISBN   9781292215693.
  13. Ostrom, E. (2010). Beyond Markets and States : Polycentric Governance of Complex Economic Systems. American Economic Review, 100(June), 408–444.
  14. Elinor, Ostrom (2005). Understanding Institutional Diversity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

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Microeconomics is a branch of mainstream economics that studies the behavior of individuals and firms in making decisions regarding the allocation of scarce resources and the interactions among these individuals and firms. Microeconomics focuses on the study of individual markets, sectors, or industries as opposed to the national economy as whole, which is studied in macroeconomics.

As a topic of economics, utility is used to model worth or value. Its usage has evolved significantly over time. The term was introduced initially as a measure of pleasure or happiness as part of the theory of utilitarianism by moral philosophers such as Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. The term has been adapted and reapplied within neoclassical economics, which dominates modern economic theory, as a utility function that represents a single consumer's preference ordering over a choice set but is not comparable across consumers. This concept of utility is personal and based on choice rather than on pleasure received, and so is specified more rigorously than the original concept but makes it less useful for ethical decisions.

In the social sciences, the free-rider problem is a type of market failure that occurs when those who benefit from resources, public goods, or services of a communal nature do not pay for them or under-pay. Free riders are a problem because while not paying for the good, they may continue to access or use it. Thus, the good may be under-produced, overused or degraded. Additionally, it has been shown that despite evidence that people tend to be cooperative by nature, the presence of free-riders cause this prosocial behaviour to deteriorate, perpetuating the free-rider problem.

Public good (economics) Good that is non-excludable and non-rival

In economics, a public good is a good that is both non-excludable and non-rivalrous. For such goods, users cannot be barred from accessing or using them for failing to pay for them. Also, use by one person neither prevents access of other people nor does it reduce availability to others. Therefore, the good can be used simultaneously by more than one person. This is in contrast to a common good, such as wild fish stocks in the ocean, which is non-excludable but rivalrous to a certain degree. If too many fish were harvested, the stocks would deplete, limiting the access of fish for others. A public good must be valuable to more than one user, otherwise, the fact that it can be used simultaneously by more than one person would be economically irrelevant.

Service (economics) Transaction involving no transferal of physical goods

A service is an "(intangible) act or use for which a consumer, firm, or government is willing to pay." Examples include work done by barbers, doctors, lawyers, mechanics, banks, insurance companies, and so on. Public services are those that society as a whole pays for. Using resources, skill, ingenuity, and experience, service providers benefit service consumers. Service is intangible in nature. Services may be defined as acts or performances whereby the service provider provides value to the customer.

Information goods are commodities that provide value to consumers as a result of the information it contains and refers to any good or service that can be digitalized. Examples of information goods includes books, journals, computer software, music and videos. Information goods can be copied, shared, resold or rented. Information goods are durable and thus, will not be destroyed through consumption. As information goods have distinct characteristics as they are experience goods, have returns to scale and are non-rivalrous, the laws of supply and demand that depend on the scarcity of products do not frequently apply to information goods. As a result, the buying and selling of information goods differs from ordinary goods. Information goods are goods whose unit production costs are negligible compared to their amortized development costs. Well-informed companies have development costs that increase with product quality, but their unit cost is zero. Once an information commodity has been developed, other units can be produced and distributed at almost zero cost. For example, allow downloads over the Internet. Conversely, for industrial goods, the unit cost of production and distribution usually dominates. Firms with an industrial advantage do not incur any development costs, but unit costs increase as product quality improves.

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In microeconomics, two goods are substitutes if the products could be used for the same purpose by the consumers. That is, a consumer perceives both goods as similar or comparable, so that having more of one good causes the consumer to desire less of the other good. Contrary to complementary goods and independent goods, substitute goods may replace each other in use due to changing economic conditions. An example of substitute goods is Coca-Cola and Pepsi; the interchangeable aspect of these goods is due to the similarity of the purpose they serve, i.e fulfilling customers' desire for a soft drink. These types of substitutes can be referred to as close substitutes.

Welfare economics is a branch of economics that uses microeconomic techniques to evaluate well-being (welfare) at the aggregate (economy-wide) level.

Rivalry (economics) Property of economic goods

In economics, a good is said to be rivalrous or a rival if its consumption by one consumer prevents simultaneous consumption by other consumers, or if consumption by one party reduces the ability of another party to consume it. A good is considered non-rivalrous or non-rival if, for any level of production, the cost of providing it to a marginal (additional) individual is zero. A good is "anti-rivalrous" and "inclusive" if each person benefits more when other people consume it.

Utility maximization was first developed by utilitarian philosophers Jeremy Bentham and John Stewart Mill. In microeconomics, the utility maximization problem is the problem consumers face: "How should I spend my money in order to maximize my utility?" It is a type of optimal decision problem. It consists of choosing how much of each available good or service to consume, taking into account a constraint on total spending (income), the prices of the goods and their preferences.

Private good

A private good is defined in economics as "an item that yields positive benefits to people" that is excludable, i.e. its owners can exercise private property rights, preventing those who have not paid for it from using the good or consuming its benefits; and rivalrous, i.e. consumption by one necessarily prevents that of another. A private good, as an economic resource is scarce, which can cause competition for it. The market demand curve for a private good is a horizontal summation of individual demand curves.

Club good

Club goods are a type of good in economics, sometimes classified as a subtype of public goods that are excludable but non-rivalrous, at least until reaching a point where congestion occurs. Often these goods exhibit high excludability, but at the same time low rivalry in consumption. Thus, club goods have essentially zero marginal costs and are generally provided by what is commonly known as natural monopolies. Furthermore, club goods have artificial scarcity. Club theory is the area of economics that studies these goods. One of the most famous provisions was published by Buchanan in 1965 "An Economic Theory of Clubs," in which he addresses the question of how the size of the group influences the voluntary provision of a public good and more fundamentally provides a theoretical structure of communal or collective ownership-consumption arrangements.

Goods and services Products and actions made and done to meet the wants and needs of people

Goods are items that are usually tangible, such as pens, physical books, salt, apples, and hats. Services are activities provided by other people, who include doctors, lawn care workers, dentists, barbers, waiters, or online servers, a digital book, a digital video game or a digital movie. Taken together, it is the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services which underpins all economic activity and trade. According to economic theory, consumption of goods and services is assumed to provide utility (satisfaction) to the consumer or end-user, although businesses also consume goods and services in the course of producing other goods and services.

In economics, a common-pool resource (CPR) is a type of good consisting of a natural or human-made resource system, whose size or characteristics makes it costly, but not impossible, to exclude potential beneficiaries from obtaining benefits from its use. Unlike pure public goods, common pool resources face problems of congestion or overuse, because they are subtractable. A common-pool resource typically consists of a core resource, which defines the stock variable, while providing a limited quantity of extractable fringe units, which defines the flow variable. While the core resource is to be protected or nurtured in order to allow for its continuous exploitation, the fringe units can be harvested or consumed.


In economics, a good, service or resource are broadly assigned two fundamental characteristics; a degree of excludability and a degree of rivalry. Excludability is defined as the degree to which a good, service or resource can be limited to only paying customers, or conversely, the degree to which a supplier, producer or other managing body can prevent "free" consumption of a good.

Local nonsatiation Consumer preferences property

The property of local nonsatiation of consumer preferences states that for any bundle of goods there is always another bundle of goods arbitrarily close that is preferred to it.

Common good (economics)

Common goods are defined in economics as goods that are rivalrous and non-excludable. Thus, they constitute one of the four main types based on the criteria:

Property rights have developed over ancient and modern history, from Abrahamic law to todays Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 17. Property rights can be understood as constructs in economics for determining how a resource or economic good is used and owned. Resources can be owned by individuals, associations, collectives, or governments. Property rights can be viewed as an attribute of an economic good. This attribute has three broad components and is often referred to as a bundle of rights in the United States:

  1. the right to use the good
  2. the right to earn income from the good
  3. the right to transfer the good to others, alter it, abandon it, or destroy it

In economics and other social sciences, preference is the order that an agent gives to alternatives based on their relative utility, a process which results in an optimal "choice". Preferences are evaluations, they concern matters of value, typically in relation to practical reasoning. Instead of the prices of goods, personal income, or availability of goods, the character of the preferences is determined purely by a person's tastes. However, persons are still expected to act in their best interest. Rationality, in this context, means that when individuals are faced with a choice, they would select the option that maximizes self interest. Further, in every set of alternatives, preferences arise.