Law & Economics Working Papers
This Article critiques Michael Heller's important contribution in the Gridlock Economy. At no point does it take the position that gridlock, or the associated anticommons, is not a serious issue in the design of a legal system. But it does insist that gridlock is not the major source of social dislocation, or that private ownership is the major source of gridlock. More concretely, the articles examines the other important sources of economic distortion that are unrelated to economic gridlock from private action. These include the use of excessive government subsidies (as with health care), misguided government licenses (as with broadcast licenses); the unwise use of government power to create gridlock situations (as with employment law); the excessive role of government permitting (as with real estate development); and the use of creative private techniques to overcome gridlock (as with patent licensing as a way to combat the patent thicket). Thereafter, the Article explains how traditional common law rules did a better job in controlling for gridlock than many current initiatives, by narrowly defining the class of actionable harms to exclude competitive loss, blocked views, and hurt feelings. It closes with an explanation of how broad definitions of harm slow down decisions in the public sector, thereby impeding the use of the eminent domain power that could otherwise respond to gridlock issues.
Richard A. Epstein, "Heller's Gridlock Economy in Perspective: Why There Is Too Little, Not Too Much, Private Property" (John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics Working Paper No. 495, 2009).