Why economics helps everyone

From the philosopher Jon Elster in a trenchant critique of Gary Becker’s approach to everything:

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.

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.

Even if you don’t like the argument, the conclusions, or the framework, we can all agree that using a consistent analytical framework is a good thing!

  • swan

    “Even if you don’t like the argument, the conclusions, or the framework, we can all agree that using a consistent analytical framework is a good thing!”

    Thats only true if you want your understanding of something to be sharpened and focused.  I’m not sure everyones keen on that – it often aggravates peoples cognitive dissonance.

    😉