Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture

Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture No. 1/06

Impure public goods and agricultural research: toward a blend of theory and practice

Dana G. Dalrymple
U.S. Agency for International Development, Washington, DC, USA


Public agricultural research, as it increasingly interacts with private research and adopts some of its characteristics, is more and more a provider of impure public goods. This shift brings both benefits and limitations for society. It also presents some conceptual complexities, because public goods theory has largely been developed in terms of the polar cases of the public and private sectors. The challenge is to try to stake out and define an intermediate conceptual territory that more fully reflects reality. This paper attempts to do so by utilizing a relatively simple diagram and drawing on relevant literature to discuss five common types of goods and examining their interrelationships and joint products. While focused on agricultural research, the framework is relevant to a wider range of public goods.

Keywords: public goods, impure public goods, global public goods, agricultural research policy, science policy

JEL: H 40, O 30, Q 16

Vol. 45 (2006), No. 1: 71-89