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The "Spot the Fakes" Test

My favorite example of this kind of phenomenon is water quality. Everyone and their mother claims they can taste the difference between tap water, tap water filtered through a Brita, and bottled water (and some people are even dumb enough to say that they prefer one brand of bottled water over another). But give them a blind taste test (very easy to perform at home – I encourage you all to do it), and nobody even tries to discern the difference – they usually admit immediately that they taste no difference between the waters.

The Tragedy of the Anticommons

If you're sympathetic to libertarian ideas, I'm surprised you're not interested in furthering discussion about libertarian approaches to spectrum allocation and land use and transportation policy. What mainstream websites/blogs/pundits do you know of who give anything more than a passing mention of these issues? I find that these issues in particular (IP not so much) are woefully neglected by...just about everyone. Even libertarian organizations (Reason magazine and foundation come to mind) often have very statist stances when it comes to land use and spectrum regulation.

Closet survey #1

I think bisexuality is present (but not ubiquitous) in women, and extremely rare in men.

The Tragedy of the Anticommons

I wouldn't want to be so absolute and say there is no such thing as the tragedy of the commons, but I am saying that I think it's vastly overblown, and that in most cases when it's invoked, it isn't actually present.

The Tragedy of the Anticommons

As is all too common, though, with eminent domain, often the government is (surprise!) not very good at playing real estate developer, and the land that is seized is not put to very good use. A great example of this is with the property that was taken in the Kelo case, which to this day remains undeveloped.

The Tragedy of the Anticommons

The purported reason for each of these government interventions is to enforce property rights where they don't exist.

No doubt. I'm not ignoring the tragedy of the commons, though – I'm just saying that I have yet to see compelling evidence that it actually exists.

A free-for-all spectrum might have some interference, but then again, the concept of "interference" is a bit dated anyway, as modern technology can much more effectively filter it out than it could when the Titanic sunk (which was when we got a lot of these spectrum regulations in the first place).

A free-for-all in land development is not a great example of the tragedy of the commons, since it is not, strictly speaking, a commons. Sure, the "skyline" could be considered a commons, but then again, given astronomical land values in dense urban settings, it's a bit unclear as to why a cluttered skyline would be such a bad thing. (The roads could be considered a commons, though given the deteriorating state of the environment and the very workably private mass transit companies that existed before the socialization of transport in the US, it's difficult to argue that government-owned transport in the form of "road commons" is such a great idea.)

As for the IP argument, people have been arguing about this for a good long time. The best resource that I can recommend arguing against a tragedy of the commons is Against Intellectual Monopoly by Levine and Boldrin. For a brief summary of some of the argument against IP in pharmaceuticals (which is by far the field in which IP has the most support), see here.

The Tragedy of the Anticommons

Covenants can only exist if there's a party to enforce them. And that party has to be paid, since preventing people from doing something costs money. Unfortunately, often the government takes that job upon itself (as in Houston).

A more realistic and free market-oriented approach would be to force people who want access to their neighbor's property to...buy it! Sure, it would encourage people to own larger plots of land, but given the inherent perils of homeownership, I'm not entirely sure that converting a nation of homeowners to a nation of renters would be such a bad idea.

The Tragedy of the Anticommons

Something interesting about the tragedy of the anticommons is that it is created entirely by government. Intellectual property, spectrum allocation, and zoning/land use regulations would not exist in an anarchic world. I've heard incredibly cogent and compelling arguments against each type of government-created "market," and it's a damn shame that people look at you like you're a crazed lunatic when you suggest that either a) people shouldn't be granted monopolies on ideas and mathematical equations (i.e., computer code); b) the government should not be regulating the spectrum at all (god forbid we'd live in a world where all communication were as plentiful as wi-fi is today!); or b) maybe people should be allowed to build gigantic skyscrapers wherever the hell they want without parking. The last one is particularly pressing (in my opinion), though it's upsetting that the closest that people get to recognizing this particular tragedy of the anticommons is supporting New Urbanism, which is at best a bastardized version of the most truly efficient urban allocation mechanism – market urbanism.

Closet survey #1

I don't believe in male bisexuality, though I do believe in it for women.

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