Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Free Rider Problem (2) - Freedom or Coercion

Economists hate free riders, because they fear that free riding will prevent necessary services from being provided. If paying for defence or fire fighting is voluntary, too may people might free ride making the service uneconomic.

The popular solution to free riding is coercion and taxation. To prevent the free rider problem, payments for public goods are made compulsory. This usually takes the form of a tax or compulsory levy. A government is elected. They decide what defence or fire fighting services are required and then impose taxes to cover the cost. Free riding is eliminated, because everyone is forced to pay taxes.

The two options are freedom with free riding and coercion with no free riding. We have a choice between voluntary payments for services with a risk that some people will free ride and public provision with compulsory taxation. Economists choose public provision and compulsory taxation, because they hate free riders more than they love freedom.

Christians love free riders, because we are all free riders. We are free riders on Jesus. Christians received salvation through Jesus work on the cross. We pay nothing towards the cost, as Jesus paid the full price for everyone. Every Christian is a free rider.

(Salvation is not a true public good. Salvation is non-rivalrous because more and more people can enjoy its benefits without additional cost. Salvation is excludable, because those who refuse to repent and believe are shut out of its benefits. Salvation is a non-rivalrous, excludable good, so it does no meet both criteria for a public good.)

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