From "tragedy" to "disaster": Welfare effects of commons and anticommons dilemmas

Sven Vanneste, Alain Van Hiel, Francesco Parisi, Ben Depoorter

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32 Scopus citations


In this paper, we explore the alleged symmetry between commons and anticommons dilemmas. Our experimental results reveal an interesting asymmetry. Anticommons situations generate greater opportunistic behavior than an equivalent commons dilemma (Study 1), and anticommons dilemmas yield a greater risk for ineffective use compared to commons dilemmas (Study 2). The results of the present study bring to light important deviations from the economic model, suggesting that other factors, such as behavioral attitudes towards property and psychological variables, affect cooperation differently in anticommons and commons dilemmas. Our findings complement the existing experimental literature on commons dilemmas and contradict the presumed economic symmetry of commons and anticommons problems. The identification of relevant parameters constitutes an interesting line of future research. Such research could identify the parameters that differentiate between the behavioral outcomes imposed by the two dilemma types, and identify subjective factors that underlie people's behavior in anticommons dilemmas. Our research attests to the potential gravity of the anticommons problem, and we conclude that it is inadequate to extrapolate findings from the commons to the anticommons dilemma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)104-122
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Review of Law and Economics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2006


  • Anticommons
  • Commons
  • Experimental economics
  • Social dilemma
  • Welfare effects


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