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Public Law & Legal Theory


In recent years, theorists interested in the commons have increasingly broadened their gaze to take in two new entries in the property lexicon: the anticommons and the semicommons. Notwithstanding some excellent work comparing and contrasting these templates and their associated tragedies, the literature lacks a cohesive account of how they relate to each other and to larger questions of incentive misalignment. Although scholars sometimes frame the commons, anticommons, and semicommons as distinct property types (see, e.g., Heller 2008, 37 fig. 2.9), each is best understood as a lens for apprehending a single core, challenging fact about resource systems—their need to accommodate multiple uses that are most efficiently pursued at different scales, whether simultaneously or over time. This chapter offers a brief introduction to the commons, anticommons, and semicommons models and shows how the three fit together in a unified theoretical framework.



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