With Ronald King, Ivan Major

Journal of Politics and Law Archives, Vol. 9, No. 7 (2016)

Tragedy of the anticommons is the logical reciprocal to the better-known tragedy of the commons. It is generally characterized as a legal regime in which multiple owners hold rights of exclusion over a resource in demand. The resource cannot be put into use without a bundling of approvals from the various separate owners, yet bundling entails serious bargaining complications resulting in systematic Pareto underutilization. Nevertheless, we argue, the anticommons concept often has been employed without consistency and appropriate precision. Illustrations come primarily from the writings of Michael Heller, whose oft-cited work has been central to the anticommons literature. This paper presents a simple version of the formal anticommons model and demonstrates that relevant applications can be constructed with uniformity and analytic rigor.