Economics () is the social science that studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.
Economics focuses on the behaviour and interactions of economic agents and how economies work. Microeconomics analy ...
In most contexts, the concept of good denotes the conduct that should be preferred when posed with a choice between possible actions. Good is generally considered to be the opposite of evil and is of interest in the study of ethics, morality, ph ...
is said to be rivalrous or a rival if its consumption
A consumer is a person or a group who intends to order, or uses purchased goods, products, or services primarily for personal, social, family, household and similar needs, who is not directly related to entrepreneurial or business activities. ...
prevents simultaneous consumption by other consumers, or if consumption by one party reduces the ability of another party to consume it. A good is considered non-rivalrous or non-rival if, for any level of production, the cost of providing it to a marginal (additional) individual is zero. A good is "anti-rivalrous" and "inclusive" if each person benefits more when other people consume it.
A good can be placed along a continuum from rivalrous through non-rivalrous to anti-rivalrous. The distinction between rivalrous and non-rivalrous is sometimes referred to as jointness of supply or subtractable or non-subtractable. Economist
Paul Anthony Samuelson (May 15, 1915 – December 13, 2009) was an American economist who was the first American to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. When awarding the prize in 1970, the Swedish Royal Academies stated that he " ...
made the distinction between private and public goods in 1954 by introducing the concept of nonrival consumption. Economist Richard Musgrave
followed on and added rivalry and excludability as criteria for defining consumption goods in 1959 and 1969.
Tangibility is the property of being able to be perceived by touch. A commonplace understanding of "tangibility" renders it as an attribute allowing something to be perceptible to the senses.
In criminal law, one of the elements of an offense ...
goods, both durable
and nondurable, are rival goods. A hammer is a durable rival good. One person's use of the hammer presents a significant barrier to others who desire to use that hammer at the same time. However, the first user does not "use up" the hammer, meaning that some rival goods can still be shared through time. An apple is a nondurable rival good: once an apple is eaten, it is "used up" and can no longer be eaten by others. Non-tangible goods can also be rivalrous. Examples include the ownership of radio spectra
A domain name is a string that identifies a realm of administrative autonomy, authority or control within the Internet. Domain names are often used to identify services provided through the Internet, such as websites, email services and more. ...
s. In more general terms, almost all private goods
In contrast, non-rival goods may be consumed by one consumer without preventing simultaneous consumption by others. Most examples of non-rival goods are intangible.
Broadcast television systems (or terrestrial television systems outside the US and Canada) are the encoding or formatting systems for the transmission and reception of terrestrial television signals.
Analog television systems were standardized by ...
is an example of a non-rival good; when a consumer turns on a TV set, this does not prevent the TV in another consumer's house from working. The television itself is a rival good, but television broadcasts are non-rival goods. Other examples of non-rival goods include a beautiful scenic view
, national defense, clean air, street lights, and public safety. More generally, most
Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property that includes intangible creations of the human intellect. There are many types of intellectual property, and some countries recognize more than others. The best-known types are patents, cop ...
is non-rival. In fact, certain types of intellectual property become ''more'' valuable as more people consume them ( anti-rival
). For example, the more people use a particular
Language is a structured system of communication. The structure of a language is its grammar and the free components are its vocabulary. Languages are the primary means by which humans communicate, and may be conveyed through a variety of ...
, the more valuable that language becomes.
Non-rivalry does not imply that the total production costs are low, but that the '' marginal
'' production costs are zero. In reality, few goods are completely non-rival as rivalry can emerge at certain levels. For instance, use of public roads, the Internet, or police/law courts is non-rival up to a certain capacity, after which congestion means that each additional user decreases speed for others. For that, recent economic theory views rivalry as a continuum, not as a binary category, where many goods are somewhere between the two extremes of completely rival and completely non-rival. A perfectly non-rival good can be consumed simultaneously by an unlimited number of consumers.
Goods are anti-rivalrous and inclusive if the consumer’s enjoyment increases with how many others consume the good. The concept was introduced by
Steven Robert Weber (born March 4, 1961) is an American actor and comedian. He is best known for his role as Brian Hackett on the television series ''Wings'' which aired from April 1990 to May 1997 on NBC, as Sam Blue in ''Once and Again'', and J ...
(2004), saying that when more people use
free and open-source software
Free and open-source software (FOSS) is a term used to refer to groups of software consisting of both free software and open-source software where anyone is freely licensed to use, copy, study, and change the software in any way, and the sour ...
, it becomes easier and more powerful for all users. Lessig noted that any
In neuropsychology, linguistics, and philosophy of language, a natural language or ordinary language is any language that has evolved naturally in humans through use and repetition without conscious planning or premeditation. Natural languages ...
is anti-rivalrous, because its utility increases with how much it's used by others. Cooper noted that efforts to combat climate change
are perversely anti-rivalrous, because the US will benefit from the efforts of others to combat this problem, even if it refuses to do so.
Types of goods based on rivalry in consumption and excludability
* The generalized
In economics, a network effect (also called network externality or demand-side economies of scale) is the phenomenon by which the value or utility a user derives from a good or service depends on the number of users of compatible products. Net ...
Microeconomics is a branch of mainstream economics that studies the behavior of individuals and firms in making decisions regarding the allocation of scarce resources and the interactions among these individuals and firms. Microeconomics fo ...
* Metcalfe's law
* Anti-rival good
Rent-seeking is the act of growing one's existing wealth without creating new wealth by manipulating the social or political environment.
Rent-seeking activities have negative effects on the rest of society. They result in reduced economic effic ...
* Free-rider problem