Private Notes on Gary Becker

Heckman / 2014-05-13 / 조회: 3,403

* 이 글은 노벨경제학 수상자인 Jim Heckman 교수가 영면한 노벨경제학자인 게리베커에 대해 쓴 글 입니다. 자세한 내용은 첨부된 PDF 파일을 참조하십시오.

Private Notes on

Gary Becker

James J. Heckman
The University of Chicago



I have been asked to talk about Gary Becker this evening. This is a daunting task in light of the volumes of essays written about the man and his work, some of them by distinguished guests in this room.
Moreover, it is made all the more dificult by the remarks made by Milton Friedman some 10 years ago when he spoke about Gary Becker at a faculty-wide award ceremony that recognized Gary as an outstanding contributor to intellectual life of the university over the long haul - the Phoenix Award.

Friedman said, unequivocally,
“Gary Becker is the Greatest Social Scientist Who Has Lived and Worked in the Last Half Century."
That pretty much says it all, and I agree with this statement.
So what can I add to this and all of the other praise heaped upon Gary Becker over the years? Since his work is so well known and so much discussed, it seems dificult to contribute much to what people know about it, and that may well prove to be true.
But as a member of the crowd in many past celebrations, I have not always agreed with the statements made about Gary or the de-scription of his work, and this is my chance to cast Gary Becker in a somewhat different light than many have done in earlier talks.
I noted few attempts to tie together the continuities in his life and work, something I will attempt to do this evening. I also want to cast him correctly as an empirical economic scientist, who has created important bodies of economic theory and has launched and guided a massive body of empirical research in economics.

At my own peril, I will revise previous descriptions and show how his life is the manifestation of unique personality and intellectual traits that have persisted over his adult life.
I do so ignoring the warnings of George Stigler, who, when re-viewing a history of economic thought by Lionel Robbins, wrote in response to his own question,
“What relevance have the details of a man's personal life to the nature of his scientic work?"
the remark:
“I am tempted to answer: biography distorts rather than illuminates the understanding of scientific work." - Stigler (1970)
I will not get into too many personal details, except where they are relevant or interesting.
He has an interesting personal life, is a power hitter, a man of much personal and intellectual strength. Unknown to most of you, he has a secret life as a body builder and champion athlete | but I will not dwell much on that aspect tonight.
His sister Natalie tells me that Gary was very athletically inclined and pursued a lot of sports - handball and stickball.



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