The Liberal Commons

85 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2000

See all articles by Hanoch Dagan

Hanoch Dagan

Berkeley Law School

Michael Heller

Columbia University - Columbia Law School

Date Written: September 2000


Must we choose between the benefits of cooperative use of scarce resources and our liberal commitments to autonomy and exit? No. Law can mediate community and liberty ? a theory of the liberal commons provides the bridge that reconciles these two seemingly contradictory imperatives. Liberal commons institutions enable a limited group of people to capture the economic and social benefits from cooperation, while also ensuring autonomy to individuals through a secure right to exit. This Article shows how current theories obscure the most salient tradeoffs in managing commons resources; details the liberal commons model comprising the decision-making spheres of individual dominion, democratic self-governance, and cooperation-enhancing exit; and presents a case study on declining black landownership that illustrates the power of our approach.

Suggested Citation

Dagan, Hanoch and Heller, Michael, The Liberal Commons (September 2000). Available at SSRN: or

Hanoch Dagan (Contact Author)

Berkeley Law School ( email )

890 simon hall
215 Bancroft way
berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Michael Heller

Columbia University - Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

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