What sort of good is accreditation?

Continuing the discussion from Collecting a list of popular/useful public goods:

This came up when I was discussing the Strong Towns Academy which includes accreditation (in that case recognition of the course credit which counts for certain professional licensing requirements for engineers and others). This is interesting to consider.

Is accreditation a public good? Maybe it’s a private good despite being entirely intellectual/ephemeral/non-tangible? It’s scarce. It’s hard to even call it rivalrous since it’s absolutely impossible to transfer. It might be better to think of the capacity to accredit as the real service.

So, what would it look like for accreditation to be a public good? Maybe the sharing (copying) is just super difficult. A system that allows absolutely anyone and everyone to get accredited is non-exclusive, but that doesn’t mean you get it in a 2-minute download. You get it through some proof of actually achieving all the education and verification. Whereas an exclusive accreditation would restrict who is even allowed to go through the process…

What about the question of who is allowed to do accreditation? If an accredited person can accredit others, that is then the method of full-blown decentralized sharing? They don’t have to be the same accreditation I suppose. Just as with software or publications where there can still be an indication of which version is received from what source, the accreditation given by one teacher or program is not directly the mark of the original accreditation the teacher received from another program.

It’s obvious that the non-rivalrous resources used in accreditation programs can be public-goods, and the rivalrous time and energy of teachers are private goods. I’m just wondering how to think about the accrediting itself and the badge / recognition / diploma etc.

I think indeed that accreditation can be a public good if the only requirement is trademark (not claiming that some institution that isn’t Strong Towns can accredit someone as having done the Strong Towns courses specifically). Systems can decide which claims are worth recognizing, just as people can endorse particular releases of software or mark which news articles are the official versions. And the badge/degree/etc itself is not even an economic good at all because it can’t be exchanged or shared in any way directly.

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