Articles from Tragedies of the Gridlock Economy Conference

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The Information Economy Project is proud to present articles that have been published in the Arizona Law Review, Volume 53, from the Tragedies of the Gridlock Economy: How Mis-Configuring Property Rights Stymies Social Efficiency held on October 2, 2009:Symposium — Tragedies of the Gridlock Economy: How Mis-Configuring Property Rights Stymies Social Efficiency*

Volume 53, Issue 1, Arizona Law Review

Transaction Cost and the Organization of Ownership—An Introduction
Harold Demsetz | 53 Ariz. L. Rev. 1 (2011) | PDF

Exclusion and Exclusivity in Gridlock
Eric R. Claeys | 53 Ariz. L. Rev. 9 (2011) | PDF

Heller’s Gridlock Economy in Perspective: Why There Is Too Little, Not Too Much Private Property
Richard A. Epstein | 53 Ariz. L. Rev. 51 (2011) | PDF

Tragedy TV: Rights Fragmentation and the Junk Band Problem
Thomas W. Hazlett | 53 Ariz. L. Rev. 83 (2011) | PDF

Google Book Search in the Gridlock Economy
Doug Lichtman | 53 Ariz. L. Rev. 131 (2011) | PDF

Autonomy and Independence: The Normative Face of Transaction Costs
Robert P. Merges | 53 Ariz. L. Rev. 145 (2011) | PDF

The Rise and Fall of the First American Patent Thicket: The Sewing Machine War of the 1850s
Adam Mossoff | 53 Ariz. L. Rev. 165 (2011) | PDF

The Wasteland: Anticommons, White Spaces, and the Fallacy of Spectrum
Kevin Werbach | 53 Ariz. L. Rev. 213 (2011) | PDF

 

Conference Articles and Abstracts:

“Heller’s Gridlock Economy In Perspective” by Richard A. Epstein, 53 Ariz. L. Rev. 51 (2011), October 2, 2009 (paper presented at the IEP Conference on the Gridlock Economy). “The topic of this conference is Michael Heller’s provocative new book on The Gridlock Economy.1 The central thesis of the book is that one critical obstacle to overall social advancement is the fragmentation of property among private owners that prevents its coherent assembly for projects that are desired by all but achievable by none. There is no question that, more than anyone else, Heller has put this topic on the map in its current form, chiefly through two earlier academic articles which have had immense influence on the field.2 The ability to introduce into the mature field of law and economics even a single new generative term, the anticommons on which Gridlock is based, is a major intellectual achievement…”

Exclusion and Exclusivity in Gridlock,” by Eric R. Claeys, 53 Ariz. L. Rev. 9 (2011). “Michael Heller earned respect among property scholars in his 1998 article The Tragedy of the Anticommons: Property in the Transition from Marx to Markets. The conception of a “tragedy of the commons” had been popularized by Garrett Hardin in a 1968 article by that name. When ranchers have open access (a commons) to grass, their cattle tend to overeat it (the tragedy). Harold Demsetz provided the canonical economic response to tragedies of the commons: private property. Exclusive rights of control, use, and disposition (“exclusive possessory rights”) encourage owners to internalize externalities associated with the over-consumption of resources held in common…”

Spectrum Policy:

“Tragedy T.V.: Rights Fragmentation and the Junk Band Problem” by Thomas W. Hazlett, 53 Ariz. L. Rev. 83 (2011), October 2, 2009 (paper presented at the IEP Conference on the Gridlock Economy). “Tragedy of the anti-commons occurs when property rules fail to enable efficient social coordination. In radio spectrum, rights issued to airwave users have traditionally been severely truncated, leaving gains from trade unexploited. The social losses that Ronald Coase (1959) asserted, appealing to basic theories of resource allocation, are now revealed via intense under-utilization of the TV Band…”

The Wasteland: Anticommons, White Spaces, and the Fallacy of Spectrum” by Kevin Werbach, 53 Ariz. L. Rev. 213 (2011), October 2, 2009 (paper presented at the IEP Conference on the Gridlock Economy). “I urge you, I urge you to put the people’s airwaves to the service of the people and the cause of freedom. You must help prepare a generation for great decisions. You must help a great nation fulfill its future. Do this! I pledge you our help.”1 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Newton Minow’s 1961 address to the National Association of Broadcasters is legendary for its caustic dismissal of television as a “vast wasteland.”2 Yet Minow intended to emphasize a different two-word phrase: “public interest.”3 Television was the most prominent use of “the people’s airwaves” — the government-defined capacity for wireless communication — and it was failing to serve national interests.4…

Google Book Search:

Google Book Search in the Gridlock Economy” by Doug Lichtman, 53 Ariz. L. Rev. 131 (2011), October 2, 2009 (paper presented at the IEP Conference on the Gridlock Economy). “Michael Heller’s Gridlock Economy popularizes a concept that Heller has developed over nearly two decades of influential academic writing: the notion that, when it comes to property rights, too many rights-endowed cooks really can spoil the broth. I was asked in this conference to apply Heller’s insight to the Google Book Search project, and the request at first seemed natural. Heller himself has suggested that Google Book Search might be an apt poster child for the gridlock phenomenon; and Google likewise can often be heard to complain, in Heller-esque tones, that the only way to build a comprehensive search engine for books is to take the books without asking….”

Autonomy and Independence: The Normative Face of Transaction Costs” by Robert P. Merges, 53 Ariz. L. Rev. 145 (2011), October 2, 2009 (paper presented at the IEP Conference on the Gridlock Economy). “Anticommons theory made a splash, and is today being expanded and applied, because it shifted our collective attention in a crucial way. Before the 1990s, the big policy questions in IP were all about individual IP rights: when should a copyright or patent be granted, when denied? Anticommons theory burst into this conventional conversation like an unruly drunk at a ballet recital. It demanded attention. It said, in effect, “you may mean well, but you’re missing the big point. You’re wasting your time!” The big point is not the individual grant of an IP right. It’s the aggregate impact of granting many rights to many discrete and independent right-holders…”

Luncheon Keynote:

On Being Misled by Transaction Cost Economics: Externalities, Commons, and Gridlocks” by Harold Demsetz, 53 Ariz. L. Rev. 1 (2011), October 2, 2009 (paper presented at the IEP Conference on the Gridlock Economy). “During the last half-century transaction cost became a prominent consideration in discussions about externalities and ownership arrangements. The author of this essay contributed to this development in the earlier part of this half-century but has since come to doubt the importance of transaction cost and even the roles it is thought to play in these two areas of economic thought. A succinct statement of this doubt as it pertains to the externality problem is a primary task of this essay. The last part of the essay questions the dominant position given to transaction cost in discussions of ownership forms that now go by the names of commons, anti-commons, and gridlocks…”

Patent Reform:

The Rise and Fall of the First Patent Thicket: The Sewing Machine War of the 1850s” by Adam Mossoff, 53 Ariz. L. Rev. 165 (2011), March 2010. “After Professor Michael Heller proposed that excessively fragmented property rights in land can frustrate its commercial development, patent scholars have debated vigorously whether Heller’s anticommons theory applies to property rights in inventions. Do these “patent thickets” exist, and if so, what are the best solutions? This article contributes to this debate by analyzing the rise and fall of the first American patent thicket: the “Sewing Machine War” of the 1850s…”

 

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