In general conversation, the terms "goods and services" are often used together. In economics, these terms have the following meanings:


In economics, goods are items that satisfy human wants and provide utility, for example, to a consumer making a purchase of a satisfying product.


A common distinction is made between goods which are transferable, and services, which are not transferable.

In economics, a 'bad', is:

the opposite of an economic good. A 'bad' is anything with a negative value to the consumer

Is there any more specific term for a 'bad' (something with negative value to the consumer) which is strictly a service?

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    $\begingroup$ So you're asking for a "disservice" then. How about vandalism? $\endgroup$
    – Herr K.
    Commented Jan 14, 2021 at 3:37
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    $\begingroup$ @HerrK. I hadn't heard disservice used in an economic context before, but it seems to fit. I think vandalism isn't so much a general term for a service which has negative value, but is instead an instance of a disservice. Do you know of any economic papers or books that use the term disservice in this context of economic goods and bads? $\endgroup$
    – stevec
    Commented Jan 14, 2021 at 3:46
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry I misread your question and somehow thought you were looking for an example. On second thoughts, maybe "harm" would be a bit more appropriate than disservice in describing a negatively-valued, non-transferable action. $\endgroup$
    – Herr K.
    Commented Jan 14, 2021 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ If we interpret this as a service with negative value, it should be something where you are paid to get the service. I’d suggest that people getting paid to take part in medical testing roughly fits, and is more a direct transaction than something like vandalism. (For vandalism to have a cost, you need to pay someone to remove it, so the vandalism-removal is a pair of “transactions.”) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 15, 2021 at 13:12
  • $\begingroup$ Is this question about (a) whether there's a word/phrase/term for a service that happens to be a bad; or (b) whether such services exist at all (and if so what are some examples)? My interpretation is that the question is quite clearly about (a), whereas the answers given so far seem strangely to be about (b). $\endgroup$
    – user18
    Commented Jan 16, 2021 at 1:50

2 Answers 2


Any labor may be considered as a 'bad' (service) for which you are compensated by the firm by paying you salary/wages.

In modeling labor market, this is generally described in the opposite sense, i.e., consuming leisure. When you work you let go of leisure, which is a good. So that, technically, makes supplying labor (which is a service) as an economic bad.


I will argue that social harm is the opposite of social services that deliver so-called economic goods.

Further there are two kinds of social harm. One kind of harm gives rise to a cause of action (COA) at law. This is the type of harm for which the law stands ready to provide a social remedy. Another kind of harm does not give rise to a cause of action at law. This type of harm means the law does not stand ready to provide a social remedy.

I agree with the comment by Herr K. that a person can perceive non-social sources of benefit or harm. If one generalizes to an abstract source then these personal perceptions map to concepts or ideas about God or Nature or Reality or the It as different names for the Ultimate Source of Cause. In general "law and economics" is concerned with proximate or human recognized sources of cause. So if we rule out a moral cause in the social context we are left with acts of God or Nature. This is coherent with the discussion of causation in law for example when a term in an insurance contract excludes compensation for acts of God. Also only moral agents can be guilty of causing harm to another person under a Tort theory.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think harm needs to be social for it to be the opposite of service. Just as the value of a haircut is primarily personal, so should the negative value of harm. $\endgroup$
    – Herr K.
    Commented Jan 14, 2021 at 23:15
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    $\begingroup$ I have modified my answer to give my view on sources of cause. I have formed the hypothesis that we inherently experience the self and other human beings as moral sources of cause and that we must rule out a moral source of cause to arrive at the idea of a natural source of cause. If we imagine one ultimate moral source of cause that maps to God. The body is a natural system and source of natural cause so the cognitive abilities we use to study and engage in economic behavior must give rise to recognition of moral causation. Moral causes benefit or harm each other in the social context. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 15, 2021 at 0:12

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