Globalisation Glossary

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These terms concentrate predominantly on the economic factors connected to collective action and global public goods. To do this, the key terms in economic theory should be explained:

Public goods

Private goods and their market exchange are typical of capitalist economies. Most consumer goods and services fall under this category. There is, however, an important category of goods with different attributes. Economist Paul Samuelson defines public goods as such goods: (a) from the consumption of which nobody can be reasonably excluded (the non-exclusivity principle); and (b) of which the consumption by one individual does not restrict consumption by others (the non-competition principle). The third characteristic can usually be derived from the above: such goods cannot be dispensed to anyone depending on how much they pay for them. A lighthouse or national defence are the classic examples. See also Definitions.

Global public goods

A lot of public goods may only be of a local or national character. A lighthouse will only serve ships around a specific cliff. A national army will only provide one nation with defence. The Earth’s intact atmosphere, global security, or global financial stability, on the contrary, are examples of such public goods that are theoretically beneficial to the planet’s entire population. That is why we speak of global public goods. Similarly, global public bads may include frequent and destructive extreme weather, nuclear conflict, or more insidious viral mutations, which also have a potential to affect great portions of the world’s population. See also Definitions.

Global management

Global management can be considered a specific global good. Its exact definitions vary from author to author. The term most often stands for efforts to eliminate a deficit of collective action at the global level aiming at reduction in negative externalities caused by globalisation, at solving global problems, and at securing the production of necessary global public goods. It is also used to mean managing globalisation as such. In a way, it tries to combat both global market failures and national state failures, thus exceeding the framework of the ordinary economic and political sciences.


Public goods may have a positive as well as negative undertone – we can even speak about public bads ... Term externalities in the globalisation context is used to mean generally any detriment or benefit to an individual caused by another without the one’s agreement. Everyone can listen to public-service radio, for example, although they may not pay the fee (so-called free riders). To the contrary, all who live along a motorway have to resign to the air and noise pollution regardless of whether they own a car.

Collective action

Collective action is the commonly used term for a situation where something needs doing (typically collectively), but it is not worth anybody’s acting on their own. Collective action is needed to remedy negative externalities or to provide positive public goods. Conserving a healthy global climate is in everyone’s interest, such as by means of numerous restrictions on national CFC emissions or on carbon dioxide, but nobody is better-off reducing their own national emissions unilaterally (thus imposing additional costs on companies within the domestic economy) unless a ‘critical mass’ of other countries do the same. Among other things, international treaties such as the Montreal and Kyoto Protocols make it possible to partially solve similar dilemmas concerning emissions detrimental to the global climate.

Market failure and state failure

The generation of (negative) externalities is also termed ‘market failure’, as it largely requires an intervention by the state or other collective action. On a similar line, however, political science uses the term ‘state failure’, because many collective or state actions may have implications much worse (higher costs) than the problem causing the action (the benefits) to be taken. Emphasis on either type of failure is usually based on one’s political (ideological) persuasion. Whereas right-wing governments tend to emphasise state failure and efficiency of free market competition, governments left of the centre typically point out market failures and the need for public control and regulation.

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