University of Chicago economist Gary S. Becker died on Saturday at age 83. He was a frequent contributor to these pages, including the excerpts below. A related editorial appears nearby:
'Prosperity Will Rise Out of the Ashes,' with Kevin M. Murphy, Oct. 29, 2001:
In the 19th century, John Stuart Mill commented on the rapidity of economic recovery from national disasters and wars. He recognized that nations recover quickly as long as they retain their knowledge and skills, the prime engines of economic growth. America retains its vast supply of both, which suggests that, contrary to fears, the Sept. 11 attacks are unlikely to worsen the medium- to long-term economic outlook.
The effects of the earthquake that hit the Japanese city of Kobe in 1995 illustrate Mill's conclusion. This quake destroyed more than 100,000 buildings, badly damaged many others, and left hundreds of thousands homeless. Over 6,000 people died. Estimates place the total loss at about $114 billion (more than 2% of Japanese GDP at the time). Yet it took only a little over a year before GDP in the Kobe region returned to near pre-quake levels.
'The Double Benefit of Tax Cuts,' with Edward P. Lazear and Kevin Mr. Murphy, Oct. 7, 2003:
Our second point, that human as well as physical capital is key, derives from two pieces of evidence. Human capital--the skills embodied in individuals--accounts for about 70% of the total capital of the U.S., and a country's economic growth is closely tied to the human capital of its population. Countries that invest heavily in educating their citizens are also those that tend to experience high economic growth following such investments. For these reasons, it is important that tax policies encourage investment in human capital. Investment in human capital is responsive to take-home pay and therefore to tax rates, with the most direct effect coming from income tax.
A highly progressive income tax structure tends to discourage investment in human capital because it reduces take-home pay and the reward to highly skilled, highly paid occupations.
'Give Us Your Skilled Masses,' Nov. 30, 2005:
Other countries, too, should liberalize their policies toward the immigration of skilled workers. I particularly think of Japan and Germany, both countries that have rapidly aging, and soon to be declining, populations that are not sympathetic (especially Japan) to absorbing many immigrants. These are decisions they have to make. But America still has a major advantage in attracting skilled workers, because this is the preferred destination of the vast majority of them. So why not take advantage of their preference to come here, rather than force them to look elsewhere?
'The Great Recession and Government Failure,' Sept. 2, 2011:
The origins of the financial crisis and the Great Recession are widely attributed to 'market failure.' This refers primarily to the bad loans and excessive risks taken on by banks in the quest to expand their profits. The 'Chicago School of Economics' came under sustained attacks from the media and the academy for its analysis of the efficacy of competitive markets. Capitalism itself as a way to organize an economy was widely criticized and said to be in need of radical alteration.
Although many banks did perform poorly, government behavior also contributed to and prolonged the crisis. The Federal Reserve kept interest rates artificially low in the years leading up to the crisis. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two quasi-government institutions, used strong backing from influential members of Congress to encourage irresponsible mortgages that required little down payment, as well as low interest rates for households with poor credit and low and erratic incomes. Regulators who could have reined in banks instead became cheerleaders for the banks.
This recession might well have been a deep one even with good government policies, but 'government failure' added greatly to its length and severity, including its continuation to the present. In the U.S., these government actions include an almost $1 trillion in federal spending that was supposed to stimulate the economy. Leading government economists, backed up by essentially no evidence, argued that this spending would stimulate the economy by enough to reduce unemployment rates to under 8%.
Such predictions have been so far off the mark as to be embarrassing.
' 'Basically an Optimist'--Still,' a Wall Street Journal Weekend Interview, March 27, 2010:
'But when Milton [Friedman] was starting out,' [Becker] continues, 'people really believed a state-run economy was the most efficient way of promoting growth. Today nobody believes that, except maybe in North Korea. You go to China, India, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, even Western Europe. Most of the economists under 50 have a free-market orientation. Now, there are differences of emphasis and opinion among them. But they're oriented toward the markets. That's a very, very important intellectual victory. Will this victory have an effect on policy? Yes. It already has. And in years to come, I believe it will have an even greater impact.'
The sky outside his window has begun to darken. Mr. Becker stands, places some papers into his briefcase, then puts on a tweed jacket and cap. 'When I think of my children and grandchildren,' he says, 'yes, they'll have to fight. Liberty can't be had on the cheap. But it's not a hopeless fight. It's not a hopeless fight by any means. I remain basically an optimist.'
上周六，芝加哥大学经济学家、1992年诺贝尔经济学奖得主加里•S•贝克尔(Gary S. Becker)逝世，享年83岁。贝克尔生前笔耕不辍，以下是他为《华尔街日报》撰写的部分文章节选。
2001年10月29日发表的和凯文•M•墨菲(Kevin M. Murphy)共同撰写的《灰烬中升起的繁荣》(Prosperity Will Rise Out of the Ashes)：
Bloomberg News加里•S•贝克尔在19世纪，约翰•斯图尔特•穆勒(John Stuart Mill)对国家经历灾害和战争后经济的快速复苏做了解析。他认识到，只要这些国家保留了知识和技能，经济就能快速复苏，知识和技能是推动经济增长的主要引擎。美国在这两方面做得很好，这意味着，美国在经历了9/11恐怖袭击后，其中长期经济前景不太可能会像一些人担心的那样恶化。
2003年10月7日发表的和爱德华•P•拉齐尔(Edward P. Lazear)以及墨菲共同撰写的《减税的双重益处》(The Double Benefit of Tax Cuts)：
2005年11月30日发表的《美国应放开技术工人移民政策》(Give Us Your Skilled Masse)：
2011年9月2日发表的《大萧条和政府失灵》(The Great Recession and Government Failure)：
人们普遍将金融危机和大萧条的起源归因于“市场失灵”。“市场失灵”主要指不良贷款以及银行业为寻求增加利润所冒的过度风险。芝加哥经济学派(Chicago School of Economics)对市场竞争功效的分析不断受到媒体和学术界的攻击。作为一种经济组织形式的资本主义广受诟病，并被呼吁需要彻底改变。
虽然许多银行的表现的确很糟糕，但政府的行为也是导致危机爆发且持续较长时间的原因。在危机爆发前的几年里，美国联邦储备委员会一直人为将利率维持在较低水平。联邦国民抵押贷款协会(Fannie Mae, 房利美)和联邦住房贷款抵押公司(Freddie Mac, 房地美)这两个准政府机构利用国会成员的有力支持鼓励不负责任的抵押贷款行为，当时人们所需缴纳的首付款非常低；信用记录不良以及收入较低且来源不稳的家庭也享有低贷款利率政策。那些原本应该控制银行行为的监管机构反而鼓励银行这么做。
《华尔街日报周末版》(The Wall Street Journal Weekend) 2010年3月27日刊登的题为《根本上是一个乐观主义者》(Basically an Optimist)的专访：