UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


12 December 2017 | 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm

The Public Economy, Public Goods and Public Value

University College London, Chandler House, lecture theatre 118, 2 Wakefield Street, London, WC1N 1PF
Open to
Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose
“Allegory of Good Government” fresco by Lorenzetti. Image: © Public domain

This seminar will explore the difference between the public economy and the market model and why those differences matter.

Public non-market production makes up 25-50% of all economic activity among advanced democratic nation-states. The public economy daily churns out public goods: products, services, and benefits vital to the well-being of the polity and the functioning of markets themselves. Yet the public economy is not theorized, or even recognized, in mainstream economics. Just a century ago, it was seriously examined by scholars of political economy and government, but the idea was extinguished by the mid-20th century triumph of rational-choice economics, which later birthed market-centric “public choice” theory.

As a result, for decades the public economy has been under attack. Agencies originally created to meet public needs are being warped into entities whose purpose is to generate revenue and, often, deliver private profits at public expense. In order to retain, fortify, and even improve this vital system we must conceptualize and explain the differences between the public economy and the market model and why those differences matter. Only then can we address, from a newly-informed perspective, questions of value and purpose: What is public value? How is it generated? What is public purpose? How is it determined? Who determines it? How is it met?


June Sekera is a public policy practitioner and researcher whose work and publications are focused on the public economy and public goods production.  She is helping to lead IIPP’s Public Value initiative.  Founder of the independent Public Goods Institute, June is also a Research Fellow at the Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE) at Tufts University, where she established and leads GDAE’s Public Economy Project. Author of The Public Economy in Crisis; A Call for a New Public Economics (Springer, 2016), she has published a wide range of papers on public goods and public non-market production.  For over twenty years June held programmatic, leadership and management positions at federal, state and local levels of government in the United States.  Her economics training was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government (MPA, 1984).

“Allegory of Good Government” fresco by Lorenzetti. Image: © Public domain