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Working Paper

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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.


Law | Public Law and Legal Theory