glossary

Tragedy of the anti-commons

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The well-known tragedy of the commons occurs when a common resource, such as grazing land, is degraded through over-use. Effectively, users are treating a limited resource as if it were limitless, owing to a poor incentive structure. The economist Michael Heller coined the term ‘tragedy of the anti-commons’ to describe the opposite failure, where poor incentives lead to under-use of an abundant or limitless resource. The case of data which is unpublished or charged for at above marginal cost is a prime example, data being in fact a limitless resource.