The Private Supply of Public Goods

I recently talked to a Conservative councillor from North London who complained about a seeming lack of free market literature specifically aimed at people in local government. While this complaint might be justified, two excellent publications – one a pamphlet and the other a book – come to mind. 

Today, it is popularly believed that the unrestricted operation of market forces in the nineteenth century meant that many so called public goods such as public order and sanitation had to be delivered by the state. Yet this perspective is debunked by Dr. Stephen Davies in his excellent LA paper: The Private Supply of Public Goods in Nineteenth Century Britain, Libertarian Alliance. 

Again, the Independent Institute book The Voluntary City  provides an insightful history and analysis of private, locally based provision of social services, infrastructure, and community governance. Covering the private provision of education, transport, housing, health care and crime control this must read book reveals:

“How the process of providing local public goods through the dynamism of freely competitive, market-based entrepreneurship is unmatched in renewing communities and strengthening the bonds of civil society.”


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