Police and Fire Services as Public Goods

Q. Use economics and political theory to explain why the fire and rescue service should be provided by the state. I don’t want the answer….I just don’t understand what this means.

This revolves around a fundamental debate in economics – How much should the government intervene in the economy?

Ideally, goods and services would be provided in a free market without requiring any government intervention. Market provision is considered superior because there is less bureaucracy and more incentives for firms to be efficient.

However, there are some goods and services which will be under-provided in a free market. (Some goods may not be provided at all). This is considered a type of market failure and therefore for several reasons people argue the government should step in and provide it.

Examples of goods under-provided include merit goods and public goods.

Fire service could be considered a public good. Because fire prevention and fire extinguishing services share the characteristics of public goods.

  • Non-rivalry – Protecting society against fire doesn’t reduce the amount of the good / service available.
  • Non-excludability – you can’t stop anyone ringing up for fire service.

In a free market, public goods are often not provided because of the free-rider problem – people can benefit from the good without paying for it.

Therefore, this question is saying:

  • What are the reasons for government provision of fire services. What are the arguments against? Because it is a public good you can provide good reasons why government should intervene.
  • If the question was should government provide DVDs then the answer would be very different – DVDs are not an essential public good.
Item added to cart.
0 items - £0.00