WASHINGTON, MAY 6, 2014—Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint and Heritage Founder Edwin J. Feulner today issued the following statement on the May 3 death of Nobel laureate and American economist Gary Becker:
Obituaries of our late friend and advisor, Professor Gary Becker, have typically described him as a “world class economist,” a Nobel Laureate in Economics.
Yes, he was all of that. But to us at Heritage, he was more: He was a thinker who knew no boundaries. His work as a trained economist—described by Professor Milton Friedman as the best student he ever taught—opened new horizons in the economics arena. His essay on “Competition” in Heritage’s 1999 volume, Leadership for America, opened new horizons on competition in non-economic areas, such as religion and education. Gary made us all think “outside the box.”
We are deeply saddened by his death. He was a strong friend and ally to The Heritage Foundation. He showed us how, given the right incentives, even a “rotten kid” could benefit society. His insightful research on altruism and other social behavioral economics augmented the idea of human capital and how it unleashes productivity in free markets.
As a former President of the Mont Pelerin Society, Professor Becker helped his colleagues and other advocates of free economies advance the frontiers of social science in many areas. His wide-ranging economic studies on crime, discrimination and families helped earn him the Nobel Prize in 1992.
Along with his conservative-minded columns in BusinessWeek (now Bloomberg BusinessWeek), Becker’s work at the University of Chicago and the Hoover Institution broke through misconceptions about free-market capitalism. He aptly described the crucial role of families as a source of investment for the next generation—not just in knowledge and skills that parents pass onto their children but also the sets of beliefs, customs, and ethics that strengthen future generations for economic and social changes.
Becker was a hugely influential economist, a wonderful human being and a friend. He will be sorely missed.