In the University of Chicago Law Review, Harvard Law Professor Yochai Benkler published a 57-page review, Commons and Growth: The Essential Role of Open Commons in Market Economies. It is a major work and well worth reading.
In Science, Edella Schlager, a Professor at the School of Government and Public Policy, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, published a book review titled An Uncommonly Open Approach. For free access to the full review, follow this link. You can also access an abstract and a reprint (pdf).
"Avoiding jargon and carefully defining key concepts and terms, Frischmann makes a complex economic argument readily understandable to students, policy-makers, and scholars from many different backgrounds and disciplines. ...
The book provides a new and productive way of analyzing all forms of infrastructure, especially those that are sources of major social value. Frischmann helps us recognize the importance of understanding how different types of policies balance provision and use. With its many fresh ideas, Infrastructure itself is likely to generate social value through additional research and the creation of innovative policies."
The Economist discussed the book in an article titled, Everything is connected:
"Network politics are also often concerned with the issues raised by commons. The internet—means and motive for much activism—is a clear example of such a digital resource: anyone can access it under the same conditions and all traffic can, at least theoretically, be treated equally (a state which is known as “network neutrality”...). But here the externalities not captured by the market are more positive than negative. Often, the more people share and use such a commons, the more they all benefit.
When externalities do harm, internalising them makes a lot of sense. When they do good, things are a bit more complex. Some level of internalising may be needed: this is, indeed, the basic argument for intellectual-property rights. Without them, innovators may not benefit enough from sharing their creations, reducing the incentive to create. But a system set to maximise private returns will not necessarily maximise total returns.
Brett Frischmann, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law in New York, provides a thorough look at the issues in his book “Infrastructure: The Social Value of Shared Resources”. Infrastructure—both digital and otherwise—is used by many for all kinds of activities, and is often to some extent “non-rival”, meaning one person’s use does not forestall another’s. Limiting their use, for instance by pricing them depending on who uses them and for what, can limit their value and slow innovation.
To get the most benefit, Mr Frischmann argues, “We should share infrastructure resources in an open, non-discriminatory manner when it is feasible to do so.” This does not necessarily rule out property rights; but it does mean avoiding the temptation to treat everything as if it were a physical bauble in which only a single owner had an interest. History shows that custom and practice, social norms and other non-market mechanisms can keep commons from becoming tragic under a wide range of circumstances."
Paul W.J. de Bijl, head of the department Competition & Regulation at CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, published a book review in the Journal of Information Policy. For free access to the full review, follow this link.
“A major contribution of this book is that it proposes to put the social value of infrastructures squarely on the public policy agenda. This is of great relevance in light of the vital importance of infrastructure resources for our economy and society. In recent years, the urge to privatize firms and liberalize markets – for reasons ranging from cutting public spending to blind dogmatism – has been so strong that politicians and policy makers have sometimes ignored positive externalities on the demand side. In network sectors like telecommunications, electricity, and post in various countries, this has not been without consequences. … By putting demand spillovers for society as a whole back into the equation, better policy decisions may result. Thus Frischmann’s book responds to a dire need.
… The book is comprehensive and eminently readable for policymakers and scholars in various disciplines. By and large, I view Frischmann’s book as a well-motivated, fundamental call for action. I hope that subsequent work will integrate the ideas developed in this book for the purpose of cost-benefit analysis and policy decisions on governance and market structure. … Obviously, Frischmann’s book will not make the governance of infrastructures easy. It never will be easy. But policymakers will have to do the analysis, and all relevant aspects should be part of the equation. Professor Frischmann has put the spotlight on the demand side. It is my hope and wish that his book will lead to more comprehensive debates and policy decisions.”
Rustam Romaniuc published The simple economics of commons: a review of Brett M. Frischmann, ‘‘Infrastructure: The Social Value of Shared Resources’’ in the International Review of Economics. He wrote:
"one of Frischmann’s major contributions in this book is the definition of a set of conditions under which society should commit to commons management of public and social infrastructure. It is true that in many cases, markets or the government may avoid the undersupply and misallocation problems. However, when there is low market uncertainty but high social uncertainty with respect to what value the infrastructure uses will generate in the future, then ‘‘private owners have strong incentives to pursue a strategy of discrimination or prioritization because of the prospective private returns, but the public would be better off with a commons management strategy (…)’’ (p. 112). The same rationale applies to public authorities. We may draw here an interesting parallel between Frischmann’s conditions for managing infrastructure resources as commons … and Paul David’s (1985, 2001) analysis of nonreversible dynamical processes—that is, the market (or the government) may too early take ‘‘paths’’ that in the long run will lead to socially suboptimal equilibria. Managing fundamental infrastructure resources as commons on a nondiscriminatory basis may avoid such irreversible and eventually undesirable social outcomes.
Brett Frischmann’s book is an important contribution to enhancing our understanding of the fundamental resources that shape our economic, social, and political opportunities. It calls for more interdisciplinary research on the wide range of infrastructure resources that we too often take as granted. And it would be particularly interesting for economic analysis to allocate more attention to the concepts and ideas discussed above. Most importantly, the book’s contribution lies in linking shared infrastructure resources we rely on daily, with a particular management regime that is capable of generating and maintaining the maximum social value within a community on nondiscriminatory terms. However, as Frischmann argues, the existence of public and social infrastructure resources does not automatically imply a commons management regime. Accordingly, more attention has to be devoted to the comparative merits of alternative institutional arrangements in managing public and social infrastructure."
"It’s unlikely that we are ever going to get a book as rigorous and comprehensive in its treatment of infrastructure as a commons than Professor Brett Frischmann’s recently published Infrastructure. This book is a landmark in the study of the social value of infrastructure, a theme that is generally overlooked or marginalized. ...
In considering roads, telecom and other types of infrastructure, Frischmann repeatedly exposes how conventional economic theory overlooks the actual economic and social benefits that infrastructures have when managed as commons. ...
Frischmann therefore develops what he calls “a demand side theory of infrastructure and commons management.” How refreshing to have a theory that explores the connections between infrastructure and nonmarket goods. In this and other areas, Frischmann's book challenges many gaping empirical holes in standard economic analysis. ...Frischmann has carved out a rich new vector of analysis, and he has done so with great rigor and sophistication. He takes seriously the economic and social virtues of the commons and skillfully applies its concepts to a realm that has long been dominated by “econo-dwarves” – Eben Moglen’s term for socially indifferent, market-fixated, corporate-oriented economists. Infrastructure is a welcome addition to a growing field of study, the economics of the commons."
Mark A. Lemley, William H. Neukom Professor, Stanford Law School; Director, Stanford Program in Law, Science, and Technology; Partner, Durie Tangri LLP:
"In Infrastructure: The Social Value of Shared Resources, Brett Frischmann's argument is timely and important. What he is attempting here is nothing less than a reimagining of how economics thinks about infrastructure. His argument ranges from intellectual property to telecommunications to the case for government investment in roads and bridges."
Elinor Ostrom, Indiana University, Co-Recipient, the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, 2009:
"Faculty and students across the social sciences and engineering will all find Brett Frischmann's new book to provide essential guidance for the analysis of diverse types of infrastructure resources and how policies affect the effectiveness, efficiency, fairness, and sustainability of outcomes. Rarely can one find such a broad and useful foundation for digging in and understanding the complexities of modern infrastructures. An extraordinary book."
Suzanne Scotchmer, Faculty Director, Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, Professor of Law, Economics and Public Policy:
"In Infrastructure: The Social Value of Shared Resources, Brett Frischmann persuades us that infrastructure in its many guises is probably our most important national asset. Looking to law, economics, and regulatory structures, he helps us to define it, and illuminates the many ways it is funded and shared. This book might change the way you look at the economy."
Howard Shelanski, Professor of Law, Georgetown University:
"Brett Frischmann's excellent contribution to the policy debate surrounding the development and management of shared infrastructure is original, nuanced, and, in keeping with his own principles, accessible. It is important reading for anyone interested in economic policy and regulation."
Spencer Weber Waller, Professor and Director of the Institute of Consumer Antitrust Studies, Loyola University Chicago School of Law, reviewed the book for World Competition: Law and Economics Review (2012):
"Professor Brett Frischmann of Cardozo Law School has produced the definitive work exploring the economics, law, and public policy options for dealing with infrastructure."
Ray Bert reviewed the book for the September 2012 issue of Civil Engineering, the Magazine of the American Society of Civil Engineers:
"For civil engineers with a wonkish bent or those simply interested in economic theories that have an important bearing on the built environment, Infrastructure may be well worth a look."
Stefan Larsson, a Post-Doc in the Sociology of Law at Lund University, published a book review, Looking through the infrastructure lens, in the International Journal for the Semiotics of Law/Revue Internationale De Semiotique Juridique (Jan. 2013):
"It is a rich book that neither ducks from challenging the disciplinary boundaries of economic theory nor from complex issues of spillover effects or hard-to-measure externalitites. Frischmann’s contribution includes the grand task of comparing and analysing the very much different types of infrastructures – transportations, telecommunications, environmental, intellectual – in terms of managing commons."
Concurring Opinions hosted a symposium on my book so that an esteemed group of experts from various disciplines could weigh in on it. Here are links to their reviews:
Frank Pasquale, Introduction to the Infrastructure Symposium:
Deven Desai, Education and Infrastructure:
Marvin Ammori, Brett’s Big Book,
Frank Pasquale, Why Do We Lack the Infrastructure that We Need?:
Timothy B. Lee, Competition Can Protect the Open Internet,
Laura DeNardis, The Turn to Infrastructure for Internet Governance,
Michael Burstein, Frischmann Predicts Prometheus,
I also contributed two posts:
Brett Frischmann, If Infrastructure, Then Commons: An Analytical Framework, Not a Rule,
Brett Frischmann, Recognizing the Limits of Models and Empirics,