The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Merit Goods

  • Richard A. Musgrave
Reference work entry


The term ‘merit goods’ has no generally agreed application. It is best applied where individual choice is restrained by community values. It may apply also where charity or political redistribution imposes the donors’ preferences on recipients; in primary redistribution, society may define fair shares in cash or kind, the latter chosen with regard to what are considered meritorious items for the recipient. However, the concept of merit goods remains within the realm of consumer sovereignty when individuals’ ‘higher’ preferences are imposed on their ‘lower’ ones.


Aristotle Asymmetric information Charity Commitment Community preferences Consumer sovereignty Fair shares Fiscal theory Harsanyi, J. C. Individual choice Kant, I. Majority rule Merit goods Musgrave, R. A. Myopia Paternalism Pigou, A. C. Preferences Primary goods Private vs. public goods Subjective vs. ethical preferences Rawls, J. Redistribution Smith, A. Vickrey, W. S. 

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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard A. Musgrave
    • 1
  1. 1.