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An under-appreciated paper in economics is David Van Zandt’s , The Lessons of the Lighthouse” in the Journal of Legal Studies in 1993.

It is a useful paper for those of you interested in understanding that there is a continuum of goods along the “public goods” and “private goods” spectrum. For example, without saying so, he pays important heed to the enormous interconnectedness of society. Even goods that are privately owned, sold and secured, rely in important ways on the existence of well-functioning government institutions. But this is beside the point. In his discussion of pre-industrial lighthouse provision, he finds:

Another novel but still charitable provision of lighthouse services was the chapel lighthouse on Lantern Hill at the entrance to the harbor of Ilfracombe on the northern coast of the Devon peninsula. For a time after 1540, the light in the chapel was maintained by the sale of indulgences of 40 days by the Bishop of Exeter to any takers.

Did I mention I grew up Catholic?

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