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Tragedy of the anticommons

The tragedy of the anticommons occurs when many individuals have rights of exclusion in a scarce resource. The tragedy is that rational individuals, acting separately, may collectively "waste" the resource by under-utilizing it compared to what some observers may believe to be a social optimum. An anticommons is contrasted with a commons where too many individuals have privileges of use (or the right not to be excluded) in a scarce resource. The tragedy of the commons is that rational individuals, acting separately, may collectively over-utilize a scarce resource. In both anticommons and commons, there is no hierarchy among owners such that the decision of one owner can dominate those of other owners, forcing them to use their resources in ways they would not, if they were permitted free will by the authority.

References:

  • Heller, M. A. "The Tragedy of the Anticommons," Harvard Law Review, January 1998.



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