Michael A. Heller

Lawrence A. Wien Professor of Real Estate Law

Office: Jerome L. Greene Hall - Room 917
435 West 116th Street
New York NY 10027
Tel: 212-854-9763
Fax: 212-854-7946
Email: mhelle@law.columbia.edu

Assistant Info

Name: Claire Merrill
Phone: 212.854.7812
Email: cmerrill@law.columbia.edu
Media Contact

Public Affairs, 212-854-2650

Summary Biography

Michael Heller is one of America’s leading authorities on property. His book, The Gridlock Economy: How Too Much Ownership Wrecks Markets, Stops Innovation, and Costs Lives  (Basic Books, 2008), draws on everyday experiences, from airport delays to new-style rap music, to show why the structure of ownership matters more than people may realize. Private ownership usually creates wealth, but too much ownership has the opposite effect – it creates gridlock. This is a free market paradox that Heller discovered and it’s a trillion-dollar roadblock to innovation in high tech, biomedicine, finance, music and film. For more on the book, go to http://www.gridlockeconomy.com.

Heller’s scholarship explores ownership puzzles in a wide range of settings. For example, in
"Land Assembly Districts," Harvard Law Review (April 2008) (with Rick Hills), Heller proposes a simple, workable solution to the problem of eminent domain abuse.  His book, Corporate Governance Lessons from Transition Economy Reforms (Princeton University Press, 2006, paperback 2008), co-edited with Columbia Law School professor Merritt Fox, collects essays that use the post-socialist economic experience to illuminate the fundamentals of corporate governance. Heller’s work on “The Tragedy of the Anticommons,” in the Harvard Law Review and in Science, draws on post-socialist transition and biomedical research to show how the creation of too many private property rights can be as costly as creating too few. In “The Liberal Commons,” (with Hanoch Dagan), Heller explores declining black landownership in America and offers a new theory of commons property. (Note: for PDFs of Heller’s articles, click on the Publications tab to right and scroll to bottom of page.)

Heller joined the Columbia faculty in 2002 as the Lawrence A. Wien Professor of Real Estate Law.  He teaches property, land use, and real estate law and has served as the school’s vice dean for intellectual life.  Heller has been a visiting professor at UCLA School of Law (2006-07), Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (2004-05), visiting professor at NYU Law School (2001), Olin Senior Fellow at Columbia (2000), and visiting lecturer at Yale Law School (1991). From 1994 to 2002, Heller taught at the University of Michigan Law School where he received the L. Hart Wright Award for excellence in teaching. He co-directed corporate governance research at the University of Michigan Business School’s William Davidson Institute and was a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. During 1990-94, Heller worked at the World Bank on post-socialist property law transition. He clerked for the Honorable James R. Browning, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and is a graduate of Stanford Law School and Harvard College.