How to Stop Innovation

When no one owns a resource, we tend to overuse it--winding up with polluted skies, fished-out oceans and battles over access to freshwater. But too much ownership leads to problems too. A pharmaceutical company is stymied by a web of patents and doesn't make a drug. An airport can't buy land for a new runway to ease congestion because dozens of people own slivers of property. A production house, faced with a mishmash of music-licensing rights, keeps an old sitcom from DVD.

In THE GRIDLOCK ECONOMY (Basic Books; 259 pages), Columbia Law School's Michael Heller documents such "wasteful underuse" and the...

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