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Tom W. Bell

Member of: FEE Faculty Network

Professor Tom W. Bell earned his J.D. from the University of Chicago School of Law in 1993, where he served on the Law Review. He practiced law first at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, the largest law firm in Silicon Valley, and then at the Washington, DC office of Harkins Cunningham LLP, where he had the distinct pleasure of helping to shut down the Interstate Commerce Commission. In 1998, following a stint as Director of Telecommunications and Technology Studies at the Cato Institute, Bell joined the faculty of Chapman University School of Law.


Bell coined the term “polycentric law” and has cultivated the field both as an academic and as a consultant to companies building legal systems for new cities. Though best known in academia for his work on high-tech and intellectual property law—winter 2014 will see publication of his book, Intellectual Privilege: Copyright, Common Law, and the Common Good—Bell has taught a wide range of classes, including Contracts, Property, Torts, Corporations, Business Associations, and Law and Economics. He frequently writes for The Freeman on issues related to startup cities.

Tom W. Bell's Articles

What Is Polycentric Law?

Polycentric law offers a pragmatic approach to advancing individual freedom and social harmony.

- February 26, 2014

Want to Own a City?

Cities fail because governments take residents for granted and residents stop caring. An ownership model—based on co-ops or employee-owned firms—could fix that. 

- August 14, 2013

Startup City Redux

Despite the Honduran Supreme Court's rejection of RED startup cities, the reformers are back. Honduras may have just created the world's freest municipalities.

- June 27, 2013

Can We Correct Democracy?

A democracy focused on the rejection of unpopular laws would allow for a broader electorate and a more immediate expression of voters' wills. It would also limit the worst excesses of the State.

- June 04, 2013

For Safer Streets, Use Fairer Courts

Having government courts try government agents such as cops is a lot less fair than allowing independent arbitration. As a result, everyone is less safe.

- May 02, 2013

Fordlandia: Henry Ford's Amazon Dystopia

By trying to design a government and industry from the top down, Henry Ford failed. His Brazilian disaster illustrates the perils of trying to duplicate something that normally happens organically.

- February 19, 2013

No Exit: Are Honduran Free Cities DOA?

Honduran REDs seemed like the best bet to test out free-cities concepts, but the Honduran Supreme Court recently put the kibosh on them. Where does that leave the REDs and the free-cities movement in general? 

- November 26, 2012

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