Free good

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Free goods are what is needed by the society and is available without limits [1][2]. The free good is a term used in economics to describe a good that is not scarce. A free good is available in as great a quantity as desired with zero opportunity cost to society.

A good that is made available at zero price is not necessarily a free good. For example, a shop might give away its stock in its promotion, but producing these goods would still have required the use of scarce resources, so this would not be a free good in an economic sense.

There are two main types of free goods:

  • Resources that are jointly produced. Here the free good is produced as a by-product of something more valuable. Waste products from factories and homes, such as discarded packaging, are often free goods (see also dumpster diving).
  • Ideas and works that are reproducible at zero cost, or almost zero cost. For example, if someone invents a new device, many people could copy this invention, with no danger of this "resource" running out. Other examples include computer programs and web pages.

Earlier schools of economic thought proposed a third type of free good: resources that are so abundant in nature that there is enough for everyone to have as much as they want. Examples in textbooks included fresh water and the air that we breathe. However, these are now regarded as common goods because competition for them is rivalrous.

Copyrights and patents have the effect of converting some goods to scarce goods by law. Although these goods are free goods (in the economic sense) once they have been produced, they do require scarce resources, such as skilled labour, to create them in the first place. Thus these laws are sometimes used to give exclusive rights to the creators of such "intellectual property" in order to encourage resources to be appropriately allocated to these activities.

Many futurists theorize that advanced nanotechnology with the ability to automatically turn any kind of material into any other combination of equal mass, will make all goods essentially free goods, since all raw materials and manufacturing time will become perfectly interchangeable.

References


public good - private good (includes household goods) - common good - common-pool resource - club good - anti-rival good

(non-)rivalrous good and (non-)excludable good
complementary good vs. substitute good vs. independent good
free good vs. positional good

(non-)durable good - intermediate good (producer good) - final good - capital good

inferior good - normal good - neutral good - ordinary good - Giffen good - luxury good - Veblen good - superior good

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