Wow, this first and last full day of the conference has been absolutely amazing, in many ways. I’ll blog specifics about each session tomorrow when I’ve had time to soak everything in and review my notes, so let’s call this a short man-on-the-street account of the day. I’m writing this as I upload pictures but the open wireless access point I’m on has a very weak signal so it’s making it a little hard to work. I took about thirty pictures, and many of them came out well so I’m happy with that. They are up now but as of yet uncaptioned. So how was the day?
It got started with me waking up naturally, which was good because I had accidentally set my alarm for PM instead of AM, and if I had been late I never would have lived it down. I walked to the bank, which was close enough to be comfortable but farther than I thought. A walk is a good way to start the morning. There was a “breakfast” with various fruits and light food available, and though I was hungry for something a little more substantial it held me. I found Scott and Iram at a good seat right in the middle of the conference room.
The first session consisteted of Bob McTeer, Rose and Milton Friedman, and Alan Greenspan who joined in over a video link. Greenspan gave a glowing introduction to Milton and it was one of the most sincere speeches I’ve ever heard him give, very conversational and comfortable. (Contrast his reports to congress.) Greenspan stayed in on the conversation that followed for a bit before signing off.
The first session on education dealt with choice in schools and vouchers. I thought it was one of the more productive sessions of the day. After that was lunch where I ended up at a table with Iram, Scott, Steven Landsburg, another fine gentleman from Rochester whose name escapes me, and Tyler Cowen. Our conversations sort of fragmented till I heard the word “blog” from across the table and tried to get their attention for a minute asking if any of them had one. Finally I ended up calling out one of their names and I discovered Tyler blogs at Marginal Revolution, whose name I love, and at The Volokh Conspiracy (less frequently). The conversation that followed was very interesting and ranged from how blogs are changing the way people interact with writing to controlling spam, two topics I find myself coming back to again and again.
The second session is one I’m going to have to think about a lot more. The presenters from PERC (I have no idea what that acronym stands for) basically argued for free market enviromentalism, or that the best way to solve economic problems is by exposing the elements to the open market and letting those forces work things out. The idea was pushed several times that the ideas of socialism and command economies took the better part of a century to defeat, and millions died as a result of that debate not being resolved to the extent that it was clear what choice was the best way to run a country. It follows that the socialist ideas being pushed by many enviromentalists could have a similar effect today. They seemed very serious about what they spoke of, and I respect that. It’s easy to forget that these economic decisions have profound effects on the world.
The third session was, to me, mostly not terribly interesting so I won’t write about it here. After it was done though I did a picture with Milton Friedman.
In the fourth session the topics didn’t seem to mesh like they had in previous sessions but they were all interesting. It got started off with Tyler who I had met earlier (picture) who discussed economics and art, which I’ll write more about later, followed by a paper comparing Capitalism and Freedom and Free to Choose and finally a presentation by Gregory Chow that quite frankly I’m still not sure what to think of but I’ll talk more about all that tomorrow.
After it was all said and done I enjoyed it all but part of me wished there had been more debate or confrontation on the ideas that had been presented. I was reminded of Joi’s complaints of traditional conferences and how the paper presentation model isn’t really that great for taking advantage of the great minds gathered in one spot for this occasion. Dinner, however, proved interesting.
I sat with Scott at the table with Tyler Cowen, Pete Boettke, Greg Chow, and one or two others I couldn’t name. Just a few feet away at the next table were Rose and Milton Friedman sitting with Bob McTeer, Harvery Rosenblum, Ben Benanke, and another Nobel prize winner Gary Becker. At the end of his speech Becker posed a question to Milton Friedman concerning competitive supplies of currency, to which Friedman responded he had no good answer at the moment. However at some point Gregory Chow jumped in (and got a microphone) and it turned into a minature debate between the three which I found quite enjoyable. It went for a bit and it was obvious that some people were getting quite annoyed, though whether it was with Chow himself or Chow’s views (China isn’t as bad as it seems, state run enterprises can work if there’s competition) I don’t quite know. Personally I could have watched them go all night, as it was extremely entertaining and informative, but President McTeer cut things off and the night finished up. Please excuse any typos, I’ll edit this entry and post more about the indvidual sessions tomorrow.