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August 07, 2008

The tragedy of the anti-commons

photo of sheep. Image available via a Creative Commons license at http://www.flickr.com/photos/alasam/2367542485/

You're no doubt familiar with the concept of The Tragedy of the Commons, the principle that says allowing uncontrolled access to a limited resource inevitably leads to over-use of the resource. (The over-fishing of the world's oceans is a classic example).

There's a good article in this week's New Yorker magazine looking at the opposite phenomenon...how having too much control over resources can also have harmful societal effects. Author James Surowiecki cites the oppressive force that copyright holders have on the legal and Fair Use of content, how wind power would have been much more prevalent by now if it weren't for the power of private land owners blocking needed new power lines, and how we'd all be benefiting from new drugs if pharmaceutical companies weren't so rapacious in slapping patents on everything in sight.

Good ammo next time you're trapped at dinner with some "private property is all" doofus. (I'm talking to YOU, stereotypical fathers-in-law!)

[Creative Commons licensed photo by alasam/flickr.com]

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at August 7, 2008 06:50 AM