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Public Law & Legal Theory


So, slices and lumps . . . of what? In fact, the title's key words are not just nouns but also verbs. Together they form an answer to the question: What does the superhero invented by the property professor do to make the world a better place? Well, she slices and lumps. Resources or entitlements are sometimes more valuable when sliced up, and sometimes more valuable when lumped together. It can be hard, at times, to know which way the balance tilts. Even when we think we know, getting to the optimal configuration can be difficult. Enter "The Configurator," who unlike you or me, can costlessly sever or agglomerate entitlements whenever the reconfiguration yields more total social value than the original arrangement. In a zero transaction cost world—that parallel universe that Ronald Coase so skillfully rendered1—these feats (and others) could be accomplished effortlessly by all of us, sans capes. But in our world, we need a little more help. In this lecture, I hope to convince you not only that The Configurator would be an excellent superhero to have around, but also give you some tools for spotting and responding to configuration challenges in law and in life. The rest of the talk comes in four small slices. The first bit asks why we need to slice and lump in the first place. The second segment looks at why reconfiguration is so hard to accomplish and what we can do about it. The third piece examines some implications for law of thinking in slices and lumps. And the final installment addresses situations in which everyone involved in a slicing or lumping operation is a different temporal version of you.



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