Can Becker Save the Chicago School?
By Bryan Caplan
Has Gary Becker re-discovered what the Chicago School is all about? Here’s Becker turning his back on Milton Friedman back in 1976:
I find it difficult to believe that most voters are systematically fooled about the effects of policies like quotas and tariffs that have persisted for a long time. I prefer instead to assume that voters have unbiased expectations, at least of policies that have persisted. They may overestimate the dead weight loss from some policies, and underestimate it from others, but on the average they have a correct perception.
But over three decades later, Becker seems to be channeling his great mentor:
I believe considerations in addition to simple jealousy and envy are behind the opposition of intellectuals to capitalism. A belief in free markets requires confidence in the view that both sides to a trade generally gain from it, that a person’s or a company’s gain is not usually at the expense of those they trade with, even when everyone is motivated solely by their own selfish interests. This is highly counter-intuitive, which is why great intellectuals like the 16th century French essayist, Marquis de Montaigne, even had a short essay with the revealing title “That the Profit of One Man is the Damage of Another “. It is much easier to believe that governments are more likely than private individuals and enterprises to further the general interest.
One of the explicit ambitions of my book is to put the libertarian intuitions of the old Chicago School on solid foundations – and put the Panglossian political economy of the modern Chicago School into the dustbin of history. I couldn’t be happier if Gary Becker himself were willing to lead the charge.