Saturday, September 20, 2008

Book Review: The Gridlock Economy

The Gridlock Economy.

Michael Heller has a very good idea--that the tragedy of the commons has an equal and opposite counterpart, the tragedy of the anticommons. The tragedy of the commons is wasteful overuse of a shared resource. The tragedy of the anticommons is wasteful underuse of a privatized resource. This underuse comes about when ownership of a resource is divided in too many ways, and that a more profitable use is blocked by rent-seeking of the smaller parties. He gives examples of fragmented land use, bio-patents, and unbundled property ownership.

As with all books that have one good idea, it gets very repetitive. Comparative case studies are like that, but illustrating the same principle over and over to someone who understood the concept in the first few chapters is annoying. I should have stopped reading, but I didn't.

Heller also gets off track towards the end, as he discusses legal gridlock, ala Hernando De Soto (to whom he gives a nod).
De Soto's work is distinct from Heller's, and Heller's attempt to fuse the two creates a misbegotten hybrid. It seems like his idea was too long for an article, but not big enough for a book, so he padded it extensively to get published.



Blogger Noumenon said...

You must now reevaluate the selection process that brought this book to the top of your reading list. Who recommended it to you? I have started in my "books to read" file including the blurb that got me to read it, so I can see if it was good advice or not.

12:50 PM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

The idea it contained was worth reading, and I'm glad I've added that concept to my worldview, but there was a lot more book than he needed.

9:12 PM  

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