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Tragedy of the anticommons

The tragedy of the anticommons occurs when rational individuals (acting separately) collectively waste a given resource by under-utilizing it. This happens when too many individuals have rights of exclusion (such as property rights) in a scarce resource. This situation (the "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.

The term "tragedy of the anticommons" was originally coined by Harvard Law professor Frank Michelman and popularized in 1998 by Michael Heller, a law professor at Columbia University.


  • Heller, M. A. (1998): "The Tragedy of the Anticommons" Harvard Law Review, January 1998.
  • Hickman, J. and Dolman, E.: "Resurrecting the Space Age: A State-Centered Commentary on the Outer Space Regime," Comparative Strategy, Vol. 21, No. 1, 2002.
  • Depoorter, B., Parisi, F. and Schulz, N.: "Fragmentation in Property: Towards a General Model", JOURNAL OF INSTITUTIONAL AND THEORETICAL ECONOMICS, Vol. 159, 594-613 2003.
Last updated: 10-11-2005 02:08:13
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