Gary Becker – Economic Theory, Second Edition

Gary Becker – Economic Theory, Second Edition

The book version of the late Nobel laureate Becker’s graduate level intro to microeconomics course at the University of Chicago. A little heavy on geometric and algebraic analysis for my taste, but still a valuable brush-up on fundamentals. As a non-academic, I don’t keep my chops sharp through teaching, so books like this are very useful. Even just thinking through the exercise questions for each chapter are a good intellectual workout.

Becker is best known for his work on the economics of discrimination, crime and punishment, and other non-traditional areas, and was one of the founders of the economics imperialist movement, which applies economic thinking and methodology to other disciplines. Other leading “imperialists” include Gordon Tullock, Levitt and Dubner of Freakonomics fame, and my former professor Peter Leeson, author of, among other books, The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates, and the more wide-ranging WTF?!: An Economic Tour of the Weird.

A personal note: I briefly met Becker at an American Economic Association annual meeting in the mid-2000s. Milton Friedman had recently passed away, and Becker was chairing a panel to honor Friedman and his accomplishments.

I was standing near the door handing out flyers for a new Cato Institute book about Friedman’s education reform ideas (I was at the conference to help work Cato’s booth) when Becker walked up to me and asked what the room’s capacity was. Directly behind him was a sign that said in large lettering, “Room Capacity: 647” or so. I told him the number without mentioning the sign, and he thanked me and went on his way. I didn’t let on that I recognized him, since he was obviously busy. But to Becker’s credit, he didn’t act like a big shot. And that is how I accidentally met a Nobel-winning economist.


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