Monday, March 03, 2003

The spectrum conference at Stanford was a raging success. Lots of economists, lawyers, engineers, and captains of industry coming together to talk about how to regulate the electromagnetic spectrum -- what could be more fun? (Lawrence Solum, by the way, was there and blogged about the conference here.)

Some vignettes:
  • I was chatting with Alex Kozinski on Saturday morning, and he, blunt as one might expect, says to me, "Ahhh, you're the [law firm] associate. So, I don't know how to ask this, but what's so special about you?" [He was smiling as he said this.] "I go down the list of speakers, and I see Professor, and Doctor, and then Associate."

    Luckily, Tom Hazlett of the Manhattan Institute (he helped Larry Lessig organize the conference) was standing right there, and jumped in with, "Well, he clerked for one of your famous colleagues, Stephen Williams -- that should be enough right there."

    I then added that I had written a law review article on governing the spectrum as a commons, an article that Larry Lessig seemed to like quite a bit for whatever reason, and that this explained my participation on one of the panels. Kozinski seemed satisfied.

    It was all in good humor, but still an ever so slightly awkward moment. (Though, to be honest, it was probably a question that had crossed the minds of a few other people as well.)

  • I met David Friedman, Milton Friedman's son and author of the wonderful economics book Hidden Order. He said that he is soliciting comments from all and sundry on his forthcoming book on the future of technological change. You can find a working draft here at his website.

  • A humorous interchange during the Moot Court (with Alex Kozinski, Harold Demsetz, and recent Nobel laureate Vernon Smith as judges). The subject under discussion at the moment was Ronald Coase's 1959 article on the FCC. Demsetz asked Larry Lessig (advocate for the commons model): "Did [Coase] say that we should maximize the output [of the spectrum], or maximize the value of the output?"

    Lessig: "I'll quote from his paper, 'Maximize the output.'"

    Demsetz: "Knowing Coase intimately, I can say he really meant, 'the value of the output.'"

    Kozinski [to huge laughter from the room]: "We're a strict constructionist court. We don't look at legislative history."

  • Another humorous comment from Demsetz: Having referred to Coase's Nobel prize for the Coase Theorem, he said, "I always thought I should have gotten the Nobel Prize. He certainly originated the idea, but I published it many more times than he did. [Pause for laughter.] I made this comment at a conference where Coase was present. He leaned over to me and said, 'The fact that I have the Nobel Prize should have any effect on the ultimate disposition. So don't worry about it -- it's just a matter of wealth distribution.'"

Anyway, it was a great time, I met lots of interesting and wonderful people, and I'm thankful that Larry Lessig let me participate.

UPDATE: For several links to bloggers who covered the conference, go here.

FURTHER UPDATE: The New York Times briefly covered the conference as well in this article.


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