Papers & Publications
Harvesting the Invisible Resource
HJL Collection Exhibit
Guide to HJL Collection
HJL Public Policy Workshop
Additional Personal Materials
Issues & Events
LITERARY WORKS ON DR. LEVIN’S CAREER
THE INVISIBLE PROMISED LAND: HARVEY J. LEVIN
(including excerpts from letters, recordings and writings)
Prologue: Garden City, February 16, 1971
One: Cambridge and Harvard University, September 1963 to June 1964
Two: Russia, Harlem and Washington Heights, 1890s to 1920s
Three: Forest Hills, 1920s-1940
Four: Hamilton College, World War Two and Japan, 1940-1946
Five: Columbia University, Rutgers University and Bard College, 1946-1950
Seven: Hofstra College, Levittown and Westbury(Business Organization and Public Policy), 1955-1963
Eight: The Weller Chair, Vietnam, civil rights and family illness(The Invisible Resource), 1964-1971
Nine: Garden City, Watergate and Natalie Allon(Fact and Fancy in Television Regulation), 1971-1980
Ten: Honolulu, Stanford University and the world(Harvesting the Invisible Resource), 1980-1992
Eleven: Garden City, April 30, 1992
Memorial service and selected remarks
Observations by colleagues
Personal Papers Donated to Columbia Institute for Tele-Information and Hofstra University
For forty years spanning five decades, as the world’s first communications economist, [Dr. Levin] researched, published, and proposed innovative economic and regulatory solutions that anticipated -- and later addressed -- the problems of competing rights and access to the airwaves, or electromagnetic spectrum. His research and proposals anticipated the evolution of television, space satellites, cellular telephones, electronic remote devices, and wireless Internet -- all quite "far-fetched" when he began his work in the 1940s and '50s. As his space economist protégé Molly Macauley indicated, the competing demands on the increasingly congested electromagnetic field – whose uses range from "radio, television, and everyday telecommunications to wildlife tracking, astronomy, garage door openers, and national defense" – proved his predictions and concerns correct.
According to members of his field, he was several decades ahead of his time in addressing the economic ramifications of the radio spectrum, long before others were concerned with the airwaves as a resource. He was often met with skepticism and dismissal by government and industry officials. In the face of government and industry laissez faire, he remained the true believer. His proposals were vindicated four years after his death with the passage of theU.S. Telecommunications Act – a "promised land" he'd seen but didn't live to experience. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission and Congress also finally implemented his long controversial proposals by auctioning off broadcast frequencies internationally, and recommending a voucher program for allocating the use of outer space for transportation and satellites.
But who was the person behind these polices? To understand that, one must understand his life, where the seeds and groundwork for such policies were laid and nurtured. This book attempts to answer that question.
Focusing on its political ramifications, [his] work was the first to illustrate the economic necessity and benefits of equitable, global allocation of the airwaves as a limited – or "invisible" – resource, and diversification of its ownership. He continued to penetrate the frontiers of communications economics even after it evolved into the highly pertinent field it is today – an evolution due, in large part, to his own contributions. In short, as his friend and colleague Harold Wattel put it, he espoused "open communication for the weak as well as the strong," and "his books will long be sought in the libraries throughout the world…" Such achievements impelled [his] election to membership in the Cosmos Club of Washington, D.C., an association of persons deemed to "have done meritorious original work in science, literature, or the arts, or… recognized as distinguished in a learned profession or in public service." They also earned him an invitation to place his papers in the Archive of Contemporary History, devoted to "the history and development of individuals who have played a prominent role in the twentieth century’s social, political, legal and economic scene."
Although, in the tradition of scholarly credibility, [he] was a stickler for scientific evidence and economic viability, he also viewed economics as an art. He saw it as a vehicle for facilitating social progress in creative ways, particularly the rights, opportunities, facilities and technologies of the underprivileged in America as well as in emerging third world countries. Most notably, he proposed a system in which latecomer users and emerging, underdeveloped countries would not be deprived of their use of the airwaves by the world powers or monopolies controlling the market…
…the challenges of his childhood and early adulthood, as a visionary outcast ahead of his time, foreshadowed his uphill triumphs later in life, particularly his posthumous vindication in telecommunications, which allowed the field of communications economics to grow from [Dr. Levin] as the sole economist to numerous economists and scholars throughout the world.
In pioneering the economics of the airwaves and space satellites, [he] was often met with disbelief that the airwaves were a resource at all – which prompted his creation of the now widely-used phrase "The Invisible Resource". Despite such resistance, he published extensively and his career thrived – even with a heart condition, the personal hardship of being twice widowed prematurely, and raising a son as a single parent…
…[Dr. Levin] testified [extemporaneously] at a National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences forum on June 15, 1987, in favor of auctioning or renting orbit spectrum assignments to emerging "latecomer" nations seeking satellite usage…
In 1996, President Clinton signed into law the U.S. Telecommunications Act, authorizing the equitable diversification of broadcasting ownership, credited for generating millions of jobs and allowing the U.S. to realize the full potential of the information age. But how were the seeds of this breakthrough planted?
Airplay answers this question as it journeys
back to a fateful dinner conversation in 1946, between a twenty-two-year-old
ex-disc jockey and U.S. intelligence officer, Harvey Levin, and his matriarchal,
Jewish-Russian immigrant grandmother, upon his return from wartime Japan. In answering that question, Airplay illustrates how one person can have a
monumental impact on social progress, as can another person's support -- even in
an uphill battle waged by a maverick in an unlikely place.
Airplay contains six speaking roles and is set to a backdrop of period music, radio and television broadcasts, and English and economic literature. It is seasoned with period references to Queens, Jewish/Yiddish culture, immigrant survival in America, reconstruction period Japan, British-occupied Palestine and India, the Nuremberg Trials, communist "witch-hunting", the newly established United Nations and Marshall Doctrine, and figures of the day like Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, Generals Eisenhower and MacArthur, Eleanor Roosevelt, Joseph McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Adlai Stevenson, Mahatma Gandhi, Adolf Hitler, Edward R. Murrow, Orson Welles, Joe Louis and Frank Sinatra.
WORDS FROM MY FATHER
Taking a page from Trumbo (the off-Broadway play about the blacklisted screenwriter, written by his son), Words from my Father portrays the tumultuous personal, professional and historical events connected to the life of Harvey J. Levin -- as a communications economics pioneer, teacher, social activist, husband, widower, and single parent raising a child.
Spanning Levin's appearance advocating revolutionary, equitable diversification of the airwaves before a skeptical Congress in 1963, its posthumous implementation of his proposals in 1996, and all the triumphs and tragedies in between, Words from my Father evolves as a patchwork of monologues and dialogues from thirteen characters -- taken from writings, letters and recordings. Juxtaposed, incidental narrative, music and original or period songs set the tone and put each scene in a universal, or sometimes ironic, context -- accompanied by projected backdrop images of public figures, events and issues of the day.
The result is an intimate and compelling picture of a controversial, colorful figure, presented largely in his own words with eloquence and humor. It shows a tireless advocate for peace, free speech and human rights; an innovative economist who was vindicated posthumously; a man marred but strengthened by repeated tragedies; a novice father determined to raise his son; and a courageously committed citizen who, in his own ways, reflected the social struggles of the 1960s through '90s and helped to win them.
family wedding you went to
They couldn’t see what you lived for
with their minds opened wide
And now they praise what you lived for
with your eyes opened wide
All works © 2003 by Adam R. Levin
All rights reserved
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