Why the intrinsic value of public goods matters

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Existing accounts of public-goods distribution rely on the existence of solidarity for providing non-universal public goods, such as the humanities or national parks. There are three fundamental problems with these accounts: they ignore instances of social fragmentation; they treat preferences for public goods as morally benign, and they assume that these preferences are the only relevant moral consideration. However, not all citizens unanimously require public goods such as the humanities or national parks. Public-goods distribution that is based only on citizens’ preferences, therefore, means that non-universal public good are at a constant risk of under-provision, and has negative implications for human flourishing. The paper, therefore, develops a complementary justification for the distribution of public goods, that decouples the distribution of public goods from ad hoc preferences, and grounds the distributive justification in the intrinsic value of these goods. There are three reasons to include intrinsic-value considerations in public-goods distribution: responding to crowding-out effects; promoting shared heritage and cross-fertilization. Finally, the intrinsic-value justification may indirectly promote solidarity. Thus, the intrinsic-value and the solidarity justifications need not be mutually exclusive, rather they can be mutually reinforcing.
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Archival date: 2018-05-22
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