Market Failure, Public Policy, and Public Expenditure

  • Jesse Burkhead
  • Jerry Miner
Part of the Aldine Treatises in Modern Economics book series (MSE)


Analysis of the pure theory of public expenditures reveals a pathological case of market failure. That is, goods with the “double polar” characteristics of joint supply and the impossibility of exclusion are such that their production will occur only under public organization (collective supply). Yet, in itself, the pure theory of public finance constitutes neither an economic rationale for the state nor an adequate economic theory of government expenditure. An economic theory of the state, consistent with the traditions of individualistic economics, may be developed around the assumption that the state aims to maximize societal economic welfare defined in terms of conformance with individual preferences.1 If market-determined prices are presumed to be the primary way in which preferences are manifest, such a theory requires a thoroughgoing description of all sources of failure of decentralized markets coupled with an analysis of the potentialities of various government policies to deal with these failures. The analogous economic theory of public expenditure must elucidate the specific role of government budgetary outlays as one among various state actions intended to deal with market failure. Further, it must distinguish public expenditures whose purpose is to subsidize households and private market organizations from those government expenditures for goods and services which then are either provided through collective organization and supply or are sold by the state.


Public Policy Public Good Public Expenditure Market Failure External Cost 


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Copyright information

© Jesse Burkhead and Jerry Miner 1971

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jesse Burkhead
    • 1
  • Jerry Miner
    • 1
  1. 1.Syracuse UniversityUSA

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