In economics, we call goods and services the set of human processes and efforts whose ultimate goal is to satisfy the needs of an individual, a community or the entire species. For instance: road infrastructure, electricity, public funds.
They are usually handled as a category joint in macroeconomic or social planning terms, but they represent two distinct segments, although not disconnected from human endeavor in societies.
Difference between public and private goods and services
Public goods and services are those that are not they belong to no entity or particular organization of society, but can be enjoyed by all citizens and are, therefore, administered by the State, since they are part of the beef publishes.
In this they differ chiefly from the private goods and services, which are the patrimony of private entities and associations or individuals, or, in the case of services, are offered by them.
In fact, public assets are not alienable, except for political decisions agreed upon by State agencies (privatization). And yet it is usually something that is difficult for the people to accept.
It is normal for public services, for example, to have social access fees or established not on the basis of capital accumulation (profit), but to the mere sustainability of the service, to make it more accessible to everyone. In some countries these services are even free. Instead, private services are intended to be economically profitable: to enrich those who exercise them and allow them to accumulate individual capital.
Types of public services
A distinction is made between two types of public goods and services, namely:
- Divisible. Those that can be distributed among the population, that is, that each individual or group can consume a certain and measurable amount, for example, income taxes.
- Indivisible. Those services that are provided to the entire population equally and that their consumption does not exhaust the stock available from it. An example of this is the consular services.
Examples of public goods
- Road infrastructure. The roads, highways and other public infrastructure that connect the different corners of a country are usually owned by the State, even when the administration and maintenance is handed over to a private company. But since they are real estate, which cannot be removed, they are public property and there are usually ministries in charge of it.
- Radioelectric spectrum. The radioelectric spectrum of a country, through which the various radio and television waves are broadcast, is an irrevocably public good, the exploitation of which occurs when the State grants concessions to private companies to transmit their respective programming.
- War material. Vehicles, weapons of war, uniforms and other supplies required by the military institution, in charge of defending territorial sovereignty, are irreplaceable assets of the State.
- Police patrols and fire engines. Just as these organizations are normally part of the public services, their work implements and special vehicles are part of the property of the State.
- National airspace. Nobody in any country can buy the air or the skies, which are goods, to call them in some way, belonging only to the State. That is why when an airplane enters the skies of another country, it is subject to the laws of that territory.
- Public spaces. The memorial sites, the squares, the presidential house, the public parks and all the assets of the national community are public property.
- Natural reserves. Forest reserves and large protected forests, National Parks and their entire extension of land are owned by the State and are usually never for sale, since in many cases they are even a World Heritage Site.
- Equity of public companies. Everything that is the patrimony of a State company will be, necessarily, public property as well. Thus, all the desks of a Ministry are usually of the State and do not belong to any isolated individual.
- Public funds. The money (the physical bills and coins) of a country, although it represents public and private wealth without distinction, is the exclusive material property of the State. That is why one cannot issue their own banknotes, since they do not belong only to us but to the entire community of the country.
- Copyright. Once a certain period of time has passed, the length of which varies according to the legislation of the countries, the copyright of works of art, literature, music or of any kind become part of the national heritage and, by extension, of humanity.
Examples of public services
- Electricity. In many countries it is normal for the electricity company to be wholly or majority owned by the state. Thus, more friendly electricity rates can be offered to the population and this basic service indispensable for contemporary life can be politically controlled.
- Identification and immigration. The issuance of passports, identity tickets, cards and all types of identification documents for national or foreign citizens residing or in transit in the territory of a country, is an exclusively public service that is handled by the appropriate state offices.
- Consular representation. All citizens of a country living in a foreign nation are legally and logistically represented by an embassy, a consulate and various diplomatic bodies that offer bureaucratic and legal public services and even assistance in a national emergency.
- Documentation legalization. The certification of the originality of certain legal documents, such as contracts, academic degrees, etc., takes place under the gaze of the State. Various public entities are in charge of certifying in writing the originality of said documents or certifying their signature, acting as guarantor of fairness.
- Judicial work. Judicial processes, both civil, criminal, constitutional or of any kind are the exclusive responsibility of the State, so it is a service that it provides to its citizens, in safeguarding the fulfillment of their rights and duties, to ensure the legal framework and the legal rules of the game.
- Running water. This service is also usually public in many countries, except those that have suffered waves of privatization. This is because the essential services for urban life, such as electricity or water, have a direct impact on the minimum well-being of the population and their human rights, so they should not be in the hands of private organizations.
- Post mail. All countries have a postal mail in the hands of the State, that is to say, public, as well as private post offices that compete with it. State mail, despite being in frank disuse, is often also considered a service of first necessity.
- Public health. A hot topic in some countries, since it is often debated whether the State’s resources are enough to attend to all the inhabitants who have a health emergency without charging them or charging them social fees. In any case, this service is activated when there are public health emergencies, such as epidemics, and is part of the State’s mechanisms to contain it.
- Policeman. Public security guards are almost never part of private companies, although there are also some dedicated to the field. But the State police forces are part of a service provided to the population to guarantee their safety.
- Firefighters. Like the police, firefighters are part of the public emergency and firefighting service that every nation requires to safeguard the lives of its citizens.