Remembering Gary Becker

Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Gary Becker receives Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Gary Becker receives Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Gary Becker, an esteemed economist, the Rose-Marie and Jack R. Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and Nobel laureate passed away on May 3, 2014. Best known for his work in labor economics, Becker studied human behavior and social circumstances previously regarded as insignificant to economics, such as family choices, home life, and discrimination. He had been affiliated with the Hoover Institution since 1973 and a senior fellow there since 1990. He and his teacher turned colleague, Milton Friedman, are the only two scholars to receive both the Nobel Prize in Economic Science and the Presidential Medal of Freedom; Becker received his prizes in 1992 and 2007, respectively. Most recently at the Hoover Institution, Becker was a member of the Working Group on Economic Policy and a member of the Task Force on Energy Policy. He also coauthored the eponymous Becker-Posner Blog.

In the wake of the Becker’s passing, several sources, including many familiar with Becker personally, have released memories and obituaries of Becker. The New York Times released an extensive obituary detailing Becker’s life and work, and the Wall Street Journal released its own obituary emphasizing his work in economics. Hoover senior fellow Edward Lazear wrote a piece, also for the Wall Street Journal, describing Becker’s impact on the study of economics and the general social sciences. The University of Chicago, where Becker was a professor of economics and sociology, also released an obituary giving an overview of Becker’s economic work, the perspectives of his fellow University of Chicago scholars, and his life. Hoover fellows Michael Boskin, Edward Lazear, and Russell Roberts, along with CNBC’s Larry Kudlow, participated in a special memorial segment of the John Batchelor Show. Hoover senior fellow Richard Epstein also did a special memorial episode of the Hoover podcast series The Libertarian, and Hoover research fellow David Henderson wrote a piece discussing Becker’s work for Defining Ideas. Hoover senior fellow Thomas Sowell released an analysis of Becker’s work and memories of his interactions with Becker as a student and later as a fellow at Hoover. Finally, Hoover research fellow Russell Roberts wrote a heartfelt entry on his blog about his personal experiences as a doctoral student of Becker’s, ending with these words: “He was a giant. I’ll miss him.”