Synopses & Reviews
25 new runways
would eliminate most air travel delays in America. Why can’t we build them? 50 patent owners
are blocking a major drug maker from creating a cancer cure. Why won’t they get out of the way? 90% of our broadcast spectrum
sits idle while American cell phone service lags far behind Japan’s and Korea’s. Why are we wasting our airwaves? 98% of African American–owned farms
have been sold off over the last century. Why can’t we stop the loss? All these problems are really the same problem—one whose solution would jump-start innovation, release trillions in productivity, and help revive our slumping economy.
Every so often an idea comes along that transforms our understanding of how the world works. Michael Heller has discovered a market dynamic that no one knew existed. Usually, private ownership creates wealth, but too much ownership has the opposite effect—it creates gridlock. When too many people own pieces of one thing, whether a physical or intellectual resource, cooperation breaks down, wealth disappears, and everybody loses. Heller’s paradox is at the center of The Gridlock Economy. Today’s leading edge of innovation—in high tech, biomedicine, music, film, real estate—requires the assembly of separately owned resources. But gridlock is blocking economic growth all along the wealth creation frontier.
A thousand scholars have applied and verified Heller’s paradox. Now he takes readers on a lively tour of gridlock battlegrounds. Heller zips from medieval robber barons to modern-day broadcast spectrum squatters; from Mississippi courts selling African-American family farms to troubling New York City land confiscations; and from Chesapeake Bay oyster pirates to today’s gene patent and music mash-up outlaws. Each tale offers insights into how to spot gridlock in operation and how we can overcome it.
The Gridlock Economy is a startling, accessible biography of an idea. Nothing is inevitable about gridlock. It results from choices we make about how to control the resources we value most. We can unlock the grid; this book shows us where to start.
Garrett Hardin’s famous “tragedy of the commons” states that when no one has a significant stake in some common resource-such as a grazing meadow, a stream, or clean air-the resource is inevitably overused and eventually degraded. But what about the reverse situation-when property rights in a resource are divided up too finely, and those rights are too closely held? How can you build on a plot of land where every square inch has a different owner? This “tragedy of the anticommons”-first proposed by Michael Heller in 1998-is a problem of excessive property rights creating the underuse of resources. And the problem of the anticommons is everywhere: in excessive patent grants that prevent the development of lifesaving drugs; in real estate practices that ultimately lead to the loss of family estates; in regulations that divide up the broadcast spectrum in irrational ways; and in copyright laws that keep important works inaccessible to the public. The anticommons is a significant new idea that unifies many areas of economics, law, business, and the social sciences. The Gridlock Economy introduces the problem of the anticommons to a wide general audience, explores the different types of situations that give rise to excessive property rights, tells readers how to recognize them, and offers practical solutions.
"The Gridlock Economy" introduces the problem of the anticommons to a wide general audience, explores the different types of situations that give rise to excessive property rights, tells readers how to recognize them, and offers practical solutions.
A startling and definitive account of the tragedy of the anticommons,” a hidden economic phenomenon that costs trillions in lost productivity and affects every field
About the Author
Michael Heller is one of America’s leading authorities on ownership. He is the Lawrence A. Wien Professor of Real Estate Law at Columbia Law School and has served as the school’s Vice Dean for Intellectual Life. He lives in New York and Los Angeles.