[OPE-L:2748] RE: Patrick on Becker and his critics

Michael Perelman (michael@ecst.csuchico.edu)
Mon, 29 Jul 1996 09:44:27 -0700 (PDT)

[ show plain text ]

I count myself among the skeptics regarding Becker. I do not find him
particularly brillian. He seems to have the same answer for everything.

He is clever, yes, in showing how market outcomes can be extended to
areas that economists have previously neglected. In doing so, he has,
as Patrick has insisted, brought areas to the attention of economists
that they have neglected. But what sort of light has he thrown on the

Alan Freeman pointed me to Mirowski's article in his Tooth and Claw
book about animal studies. He mocked the Texas economists who did
the experiments deriving the utility curves of rats. Did this work
help economists bring new insights to bear on psychology?

Would a theory that I could explain the production of literature in
terms of constrained optimization, help me as an economist, understtand
Shakespeare any better?

Suppose you, as an economist, found yourself in a room with 10,000 committed
activists who asked you what they could do to promote progressive causes.
Would you send them to the library to read Becker?

Andrew and Patrick arre correct to warn against anti-intellectualism, but
I remain skeptical about Mr. Becker.
Michael Perelman
Economics Department
California State University
Chico, CA 95929

Tel. 916-898-5321
E-Mail michael@ecst.csuchico.edu