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Unpublished Paper
Common Ownership & Equality of Autonomy
ExpressO (2012)
  • anna di robilant, Boston University
In recent years, common ownership is enjoying unprecedented favor among policy-makers and citizens. Conservation land trusts, affordable housing cooperatives, community gardens and neighborhood-managed parks are spreading in U.S. cities. These common ownership regimes are seen as yielding a variety of benefits, such as “community”, i.e. more democratic and responsible management of resources, or “efficiency”, i.e. more efficient use of scarce natural resources. This article makes two contributions to the “new commons” literature. First, it re-orients the normative focus of the debate. It argues that common ownership regimes can help foster greater “equality of autonomy.” By “equality of autonomy”, I mean equitable access to the means that enable individuals to be autonomous. Second, this article provides a new answer to the central challenge of common ownership design. Can common ownership regimes be both egalitarian and liberal? Some scholars have suggested that an aptly designed default regime, applicable to a wide range of common ownership settings, can be successful in avoiding difficult trade offs between equality and autonomy. By contrast, I argue that this challenge is best dealt with by adopting a “resource-specific” approach to the design of common ownership regimes. In some cases, this resource-specific design helps minimize or avoid difficult trade offs. In hard cases where trade offs cannot be avoided, this approach allows lawmakers to develop normatively appealing justifications for these trade offs.
Publication Date
February 20, 2012
Citation Information
anna di robilant. "Common Ownership & Equality of Autonomy" ExpressO (2012)
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