If Gary Becker didn’t exist, we would have to invent someone like him. For close to four decades he has been taking economic theory beyond its usual domain of applications, almost single-handedly creating the economics of discrimination, human capital theory, the economics of crime and punishment, and the economic theory of the family.Elster makes an important point, having a clear analytical framework helps both those who agree with you and those who don't. It makes it possible for people to workout what exactly it is they agree or disagree with.
Although I disagree sharply with much of it, it has raised the level of discussion enormously. Before Becker, most explanations of addiction did not involve choice at all, much less rational choice. By arguing that addiction is a form of rational behavior, Becker offers other scholars the choice between agreeing with him or trying to identify exactly where he goes wrong. Whatever option we take (I’m going to take the second), our understanding of addiction will be sharpened and focused.
Friday, 11 May 2012
Posted by Paul Walker at 1:01 pm