Heller’s Gridlock Economy in Perspective: Why There Is Too Little, Not Too Much Private Property

This Article critiques Michael Heller’s important contribution in *The Gridlock Economy*. At no point does this Article take the position that gridlock, or the associated anticommons, is not a serious issue in the design of a legal system. But gridlock is not the major source of social dislocation; nor is private ownership the major source of gridlock. More concretely, this Article 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, this Article explains how traditional common law rules did a better job of 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.

Article | View PDF | Appears in Volume 53, Issue 1

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