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The Independent Institute
Working Paper #57

Is Cybersecurity a Public Good? Evidence from the Financial Services Industry


Abstract: After September 11th many government officials have become concerned with the possibility of terrorists launching attacks on the U.S. through the internet. Cybersecurity in industries that form our economy's “critical infrastructure” have been of particular concern. This paper examines the economics of cybersecurity. The economics of externalities, public goods, market failure, and government failure are all explored as they relate to cybersecurity. The financial services industry is clearly an area of critical infrastructure in our economy. This industry provides a case study to examine whether the market is providing the efficient level of cybersecurity or whether government intervention is required.


Benjamin Powell is a Senior Fellow at The Independent Institute, Director of the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University, and former President of the Association of Private Enterprise Education. Dr. Powell received his Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University. He has been Assistant Professor of Economics at San Jose State University, Associate Professor of Economics at Suffolk University, a Fellow with the Mercatus Center's Global Prosperity Initiative, and a Visiting Research Fellow with the American Institute for Economic Research. He is also the editor of the Independent Institute books, Housing America: Building out of Crisis and Making Poor Nations Rich.