When is state coercion for the provision of public goods justified? And how should the social surplus of public goods be distributed? Philosophers approach these questions by distinguishing between essential and discretionary public goods. This article explains the intractability of this distinction, and presents two upshots. First, if governments provide configurations of public goods that simultaneously serve essential and discretionary purposes, the scope for justifiable complaints by honest holdouts is narrower than commonly assumed. Second, however, claims to distributive fairness in the provision of public goods also turn out to be more complex to assess.