December 29, 2005 · Lessig
In this paper, Michael Heller introduced the concept of the “anticommons” — a resource subject to many different “property-like” claims, thus leading to its underutilization. The context was post-Soviet Russia. That context made it sound remote. But the idea was soon domesticated in this paper by Heller and Eisenberg appearing in Science. And then the concept got its most important play in a paper by Nobel Prize winning (and conservative) economist James Buchanan and Yong Yoon, titled Symmetric Tragedies.
That’s all fantastically good theory. Here, however, is the anticommons in practice. There are many more examples like this. I’ll make it a practice of collecting them. Maybe enough examples will get the thick-political types to recognize (as the very much not thick Buchanan recognizes) that the issue of IP reform is not about whether you favor property or not, but whether THE PARTICULAR FORM OF PROPERTY the government has crafted operates efficiently.
(Thanks for the pointer, Tom!)