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The Future of Law and EconomicsEssays in Reform and Recollection$
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Guido Calabresi

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780300195897

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300195897.001.0001

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Of Merit Goods Generally

Of Merit Goods Generally

Specific Applications and Concluding Thoughts

(p.73) IV Of Merit Goods Generally
The Future of Law and Economics

Guido Calabresi

Yale University Press

This chapter explains what merit goods are, how they might best be handled, and why a society might well wish to handle them in ways other than by altering its general wealth distribution. It considers examples of goods and bads that can be categorized as merit goods and involve commodification and commandification costs, including military service, transplantable body parts, child rights, and campaign contributions, as well as a basic level of education, health care, and environmental protection. It also discusses the moral costs of suffering that people go through if these goods and bads are allocated according to the prevailing wealth distribution, along with the fact that there are different ways of diminishing these wealth distribution-dependent costs. Finally, it examines how a society chooses which goods to remove from the market and how it decides which to treat as merit goods. It suggests that the nonordinary market treatment of some goods is probably essential to the perdurance of incentives.

Keywords:   merit goods, wealth distribution, military service, health care, moral costs, incentives, commodification, commandification, child rights, campaign contributions

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