Conflicts in Property

23 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2004

See all articles by Hanoch Dagan

Hanoch Dagan

Berkeley Law School

Michael Heller

Columbia University - Columbia Law School

Date Written: May 18, 2004


Property concerns conflicts - both conflicts between individuals and conflicts of interest. Conflicts between individuals have long been the paradigmatic property focus. According to this view, property debates circle around issues of autonomy and productive competition. But this is an impoverished view. In this Article, we shift attention to conflicts of interest. By helping people manage conflicts of interest, a well-governed property system balances interdependence with autonomy and productive cooperation with productive competition. We identify three mechanisms woven throughout property law that help manage conflicts of interest: (1) internalization of externalities; (2) democratization of management; and (3) de-escalation of transactions. We show that property law predictably selects among these mechanisms depending on the ratio of economic to social benefits that people seek from a group resource. When economic concerns predominate, property law typically uses contribution-based allocations of rights and responsibilities mediated by formal, foreground procedures; while at the social end of the spectrum we tend to see more egalitarian substantive rules operating in an informal, background safety net.

Suggested Citation

Dagan, Hanoch and Heller, Michael, Conflicts in Property (May 18, 2004). 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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