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Let me begin this article on "surprising commons" with a few words about another article that I wrote some years ago, in the mid- 1980s. It was called The Comedy of the Commons, and in it, I tried to figure out a peculiar and very long-standing legal pattern in which some kinds of terrain systematically resist privatization and instead remain in a state of more or less open access. It is not a large category, but what makes this kind of territory interesting is that it has a legal land use profile that is quite different from the ordinary pattern for land. Land normally can become private property and indeed is generally expected to turn into private property, with some exceptions for property owned by governmental entities-and even the latter category is unlikely to be held in a condition of complete open access.

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