Arnold Kling

Gary Becker on Economics

Arnold Kling, Great Questions of Economics
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The Minneapolis Fed has a must-read interview with Gary Becker, winner of the Nobel Prize in 1992. In addition to talking about topics he pioneered, such as the economics of crime and the economics of discrimination, Becker talks about economic literacy among non-economists.

Economics is an easy subject and a difficult subject at the same time. It is easy in the sense there are only a few principles that really guide most economic analysis. It is simple and yet it's obviously very difficult. I have dealt a lot with Nobel laureates in physics, chemistry and other fields who have very strong opinions on economic issues and usually they are terrible. These are obviously first-class minds, but they have not given economic issues much attention. They believe that they can casually talk about an economic issue and come up with the right answer, that one just has to be intelligent. This is obviously not the case. There are economic principles. If you do not use these principles, you are likely to come to the wrong answers.

Discussion Question. Why would a physicist be confident in his or her opinions about economics, while an economist would be reticent about voicing an opinion about physics?

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