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Financial assistance, either through direct payments or through indirect means such as price cuts and favourable contracts, to a person or group in order to promote a public objective. Subsidies to transportation, housing, agriculture, mining, and other industries have been instituted on the grounds that their preservation or expansion is in the public interest. Subsidies to the arts, sciences, humanities, and religion also exist in many nations where the private economy is unable to support them. Examples of direct subsidies include payments in cash or in kind, while more-indirect subsidies include governmental provision of goods or services at prices below the normal market price, governmental purchase of goods or services at prices above the market price, and tax concessions. Although subsidies exist to promote the public welfare, they result in either higher taxes or higher prices for consumer goods. Some subsidies, such as protective tariffs, may also encourage the preservation of inefficient producers. A subsidy is desirable only if its effects increase total benefits more than total costs (seecost-benefit analysis).
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on subsidy, visit Britannica.com.