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The Gridlock Economy: How Too Much Ownership Wrecks Markets, Stops Innovation, and Costs Lives Hardcover – Bargain Price, July 7, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (July 7, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0465029167
  • ASIN: B0023RSZPU
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,827,694 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Lawrence Lessig on The Gridlock Economy
Lawrence Lessig is a Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and founder of the school's Center for Internet and Society, as well as CEO of the Creative Commons project and the author of Code, Free Culture, and The Future of Ideas. In an exclusive guest review for Amazon.com, Lessig shares his praise for The Gridlock Economy and its sizable contribution to the economic policy debate.


For forty years, "the tragedy of the commons" has set the frame for an extraordinary range of social, economic, and legal thought. It oriented policy prescriptions. It set the baseline on reasonable policy alternatives. Its strong conclusion in favor of assigning property rights whenever possible has had a profound effect on everything from intellectual property policy to spectrum regulation. Its simple, intuitive analysis became second nature to a generation of policy makers.

Heller's book, The Gridlock Economy, completely inverts this framework for some of the most important policy questions we will face in the digital age. His clear and beautifully crafted analysis is absolutely compelling, and will fundamentally change the debate in core policy areas. There are very few books that reorient a field. Almost none that reorient many fields. This is in that "almost none" category: Paradigms will shift. Many of them. --Lawrence Lessig





Review

"Slate Magazine"
"The last decade has produced enough books challenging received wisdom to fill a small--and stupendously popular--library called the Compendium of Counter-intuition, [including Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink," James Surowiecki's "Wisdom of Crowds," Chris Anderson's "Long Tail"]. The newest addition to the collection is "The Gridlock Economy," . . . The difference is that Heller, unlike most of the authors of counterintuitive books, is actually a leader in the academic field he is scrutinizing. . . . Heller has managed to pull off one of the most perceptive popular books on property since "Das Kapital,""

Slate Magazine
"The last decade has produced enough books challenging received wisdom to fill a small—and stupendously popular—library called the Compendium of Counter-intuition, [including Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, James Surowiecki's Wisdom of Crowds, Chris Anderson's Long Tail]. The newest addition to the collection is The Gridlock Economy. . . . The difference is that Heller, unlike most of the authors of counterintuitive books, is actually a leader in the academic field he is scrutinizing. . . . Heller has managed to pull off one of the most perceptive popular books on property since Das Kapital."


Business Week
"The bottom line: a compelling account with broad policy implications." 


Wall Street Journal Law Blog
"It seems all too infrequent an occurrence that a law professor writes a thoughtful and accessible book about law for a lay audience. But Michael Heller has done just that."


Time Magazine Curious Capitalist Blog
"Maybe the revolution starts with The Gridlock Economy."


Penthouse
"This could be one of this year's most important books. . . . Maybe the best thing to do is to send a copy of this vital book to your congressional representative."


Reuters
"Offers a new way to look at economic issues."

More About the Author

Michael Heller is one of America's leading authorities on property. He is the Lawrence A. Wien Professor of Real Estate Law at Columbia Law School where he teaches property, land use, and real estate law and has served as the vice dean for intellectual life.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 25 customer reviews
It is an eye-opening book, and one that everyone should read.
A. Ko
I was captivated by how well written this book is for a layman with a generic knowledge background in business.
Wilbur Beauregard
Michael Heller's Gridlock Economy is this year's must-read popular economics book.
J. Schmitt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Econjunkie on July 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are an awfully lot of good books on the economics of private ownership out there. What makes this one special is it really takes apart what has become the most underreported and underestimated side of inefficiency, and that is property being broken into units so small, they aren't of use anymore. This is important, for example, because it has hindered medical innovation, by forcing people to wait out a nearly endless stream of patents before developing a new drug to combat, say, alzheimer's.

Another big positive of the book is it's nice to give credit where credit is due, and Heller invented the study of this stuff. It's great to hear it right from the horse's mouth.

And, what is definitely most important, it is accessible to any audience. If you are just leaving high school and want to know a good collection of injustices created by capitalism run amok, you would want this book.

If you are a free-market economist (or a college econ student) and want to have a thorough understanding of this form of inefficiency, you would want this book.

But I think this book is best for people that look around and feel like the country has so much potential, so much brainpower, and technological ingenuity, and yet for some reason our economy is on life support. There are a lot of books that point fingers at the failures of officials, and businesses, and individuals, etc. This one not only defines problems but points to solutions, something you almost NEVER come across in popular reading today. A great read all around.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A. Ko on July 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is a great introduction to a very interesting topic, written in a way that is easily accessible and understandable both for those in the legal field and those without any legal background at all. Heller skillfully takes readers on a journey through the many areas of life, both historical and contemporary, that are or have been affected by this concept of the anti-commons. Just a few examples include Heller's discussions about robber barons blocking travel through water channels by collecting tolls every few miles, to the difficulties of obtaining rights to music from numerous different owners to create rap songs with mixed samples, to the inhibitory effects on the development of medical treatments because of too many owners owning tiny bits of gene sequences. It is an eye-opening book, and one that everyone should read.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Izaak VanGaalen on July 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book arrives at a very auspicious moment. The key concept is that property ownership is not an unmitigated good, and, worse yet, it can lead to economic gridlock and underutilization of resources. In a rising economy, with property values going upward, this book would probably not sell too many copies; but in a declining market, with many homeowners stuck with adjustable mortgages greater than the value of their homes, the downside of property ownership is now more manifest.

Michael Heller teaches real estate law at Columbia University Law School and he is considered one of the foremost authorities on property law. In the current work, he discusses what he calls the tragedy of the anticommuns. The expression "tragedy of the commons" goes back as far as Aristotle, referring to the absence of individual property rights. Heller's "tragedy of the anticommons" refers to uncontrolled proliferation of individual rights, all clamoring for their own stake with total disregard for the common good. He correctly claims that too many property rights can strangle the market. This is an unpopular and inconvenient idea that runs counter to one of the most fundamental beliefs of capitalism.

Heller argues that property rights create gatekeepers. A gatekeeper is someone whose permission we need to get something done. Modern society is complex, and with more and more gatekeepers, the chances of getting things done becomes more difficult all the time. This sounds like commonsense, and economists have traditionally called this the burden of transaction costs. Heller's take on this issue is new and refreshing in that he creates a new vocabulary in describing it.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. Schmitt on July 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Michael Heller's Gridlock Economy is this year's must-read popular economics book. As reviewers at Slate, Time, and elsewhere have noted, Heller's book compares well to 2005's mega-hit Freakonomics, as well as Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, James Surowiecki's (of The New Yorker) The Wisdom of Crowds, and Chris Anderson's The Long Tail.

Gridlock Economy shares two important characteristics with those books: a compelling central organizing idea and great writing. The central organizing idea is that "too much ownership" can stifle economic innovation. By "too much ownership," Heller is referring to the kind of situation that arises with increasing frequency across all the key sectors of the new economy including biotechnology, software, computer hardware, music, movies, and finance. Our efforts to promote innovation by granting patents and copyrights (and other government-sponsored forms of intellectual property protection) can often come back to bite us.

Heller provides dozens of interesting examples across the entire range of the new economy. His lead example involves the difficulties that a researcher at a big drug company is having pursuing a promising cure for Alzheimers. To make headway, the researcher needs to purchase or license a host of patents held by a not small number of competitors. Our current patent system gives --for better and, in this case, for worse-- gives each patent holder involved the capacity to hold up this important research. If we're lucky an entrepreneurial "patent bundler" will come along and piece together the necessary patents and licenses. Meanwhile, we're stuck in Heller's gridlock.
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