One of the preeminent scholars working on private law theory today, Michael Heller writes and teaches about who gets what and why. His writings range over innovation and entrepreneurship, corporate governance, biomedical research policy, real estate development, African-American and Native American land ownership, and post-socialist economic transition. In each area, Heller helps people see and cure ownership dilemmas no one had previously noticed. Follow him on social media at: FB, TW, LI, IN.
In his new book, Mine! How the Hidden Rules of Ownership Control Our Lives (On sale March 2, 2021), Heller and co-author James Salzman reveal the six simple stories everyone uses to claim everything. Owners choose the rule that steers us to do what they want. But we can pick a different rule. As Heller and Salzman show – in the spirited style of Freakonomics and Nudge – ownership is always up for grabs.
Heller’s influential and widely reviewed book, The Gridlock Economy: How Too Much Ownership Wrecks Markets, Stops Innovation, and Costs Lives reveals an ownership paradox that Heller discovered: creating too many property rights can be as costly as creating too few. In The Choice Theory of Contracts (downloadable intro at ssrn), Heller and coauthor Hanoch Dagan answer the question: what is freedom in “freedom of contract”? He is the editor of the two-volume Commons and Anticommons, and co-editor with Merritt Fox of Corporate Governance Lessons from Transition Economy Reforms. Heller has also published dozens of articles in all the leading law journals. For a sampling, see his ssrn page.
At Columbia, Heller is the Lawrence A. Wien Professor of Real Estate Law, and he has served as the Vice Dean for Intellectual Life. Before joining Columbia Law in 2002, Heller taught at the University of Michigan Law School where he received the L. Hart Wright Award for excellence in teaching. He has taught at NYU, UCLA, and Yale Law Schools and was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Prior to entering academia, he worked at the World Bank on post-socialist legal transition. Heller served as a law clerk for Judge James Browning of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
There are just six simple stories that everyone uses to claim everything: First come, first served. Possession is nine-tenths of law. You reap what you sow. My home is my castle. Our bodies, ourselves. The meek shall inherit the earth. Owners choose the story that steers us to do what they want. But we can always pick a different story. With stories that are eye-opening, mind-bending, and sometimes infuriating, Mine! reveals the rules of ownership that secretly control our lives.
- The Choice Theory of Contracts (Intro available on SSRN) (with Hanoch Dagan), Cambridge University Press, 2017
- Commons and Anticommons (editor, with original introduction, 2 volumes), Edward Elgar Publishing, 2010
- The Gridlock Economy: How Too Much Property Wrecks Markets, Stops Innovation, and Costs Lives (Intro available on SSRN), Basic Books (2008, paperback 2010; Korea edition with an original forward, 2009; China, 2009; Taiwan, 2010; Thailand, 2011)
- Corporate Governance Lessons from Transition Economy Reforms, Princeton University Press (co-edited with Merritt Fox, 2006, paperback 2008)
Professor Heller is currently working on a series of articles on contract theory in draft with Hanoch Dagan, now available on SSRN.
“Freedom, Choice, and Contracts,” 20 Theoretical Inquiries in Law 595 (2019) (with Hanoch Dagan)
- “Why Autonomy Must Be Contract’s Ultimate Value,” 20 Jerusalem Review of Legal Studies 148 (2019) (with Hanoch Dagan)
- “The Tragedy of the Anticommons: A Concise Introduction and Lexicon,” 76 Modern Law Review 6 (2013)
- “Land Assembly Districts,” 121 Harvard Law Review 1465 (2008) (with Rick Hills)
- “Conflicts in Property,” 6 Theoretical Inquiries in Law 37 (2005) (with Hanoch Dagan)
- “The Liberal Commons,” 110 Yale Law Journal 549 (2001) (with Hanoch Dagan)
- “The Dynamic Analytics of Property Law,” 2 Theoretical Inquiries in Law 79 (2001)
- “The Boundaries of Private Property,” 108 Yale Law Journal 1163 (1999)
- “Deterrence and Distribution in the Law of Takings,” 112 Harvard Law Review 997 (1999) (with James E. Krier)
- “Can Patents Deter Innovation? The Anticommons in Biomedical Research,” 280 Science 698 (1998) (with Rebecca S. Eisenberg)
- “The Tragedy of the Anticommons: Property in the Transition from Marx to Markets,” 111 Harvard Law Review 621 (1998)