The economist’s concept of a “public good” is a strategy for gaining broader public support for dealing with the challenge of community sustainability and inter-community conflict. Defining something as a public good requires two critical decisions. The first is acceptance that some situation affects a larger public, in which no one can be excluded. The second is accepting some mechanism with which the larger collectivity will pay for the costs of obtaining the public good. Nineteenth and early 20th Century political struggles to define fire protection, food safety and education as collective goods places community public goods issues in perspective. The effects of unsustainable communities that present public goods challenges for the larger society include: the costs of personal and social pathologies that are harmful to national workforce capacity, the rise of populism, and the decline in support of the institutions of liberal democracy, especially trust in government and science.
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