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Economic Definition of free-rider problem. Defined.

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Term free-rider problem Definition: The inclination to enjoy the benefit of a good without paying for it--if you don't have to. This is the main reason public goods are produced by government. Most people won't voluntarily pay for a public good, because excludability means they can get it without paying--a free ride. With a large number of free riders--perhaps everyone--voluntary payments like those occurring in markets won't provide enough revenue to pay production costs. The only way to finance public goods is to force free-riders, and everyone else, to pay through taxes.


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