Public Choice

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 371–386

From weakest-link to best-shot: The voluntary provision of public goods

  • Jack Hirshleifer

DOI: 10.1007/BF00141070

Cite this article as:
Hirshleifer, J. Public Choice (1983) 41: 371. doi:10.1007/BF00141070


It has traditionally been assumed that the socially available amount X of a public good is the simple sum of the separate amounts xi produced by the i = 1, ..., I members of the community. But there are many other possibilities of practical importance. Among them are: (i) Weakest-link rule, where the socially available amount is the minimum of the quantities individually provided, and (ii) Best-shot rule, where the socially available amount is the maximum of the individual quantities. The former tends to arise in linear situations, where each individual has a veto on the total to be provided (e.g., if each is responsible for one link of a chain); the latter tends to arise when there is a single prize of overwhelming importance for the community, with any individual's effort having a chance of securing the prize.

In comparison with the standard Summation formula of ordinary public-good theory, it is shown that underprovision of the public good tends to considerably moderated when the Weakest-link function is applicable, but aggravated when the Best-shot function is applicable. In time of disaster, where the survival of the community may depend upon each person's doing his duty, the conditions for applicability of the Weakest-link rule are approximated. This circumstance explains the historical observation that disaster conditions tend to elicit an extraordinary amount of unselfish behavior.

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jack Hirshleifer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of CaliforniaLos Angeles