Un economista para todos los tiempos

STANFORD – Al igual que muchas personas, conocí por primera vez al economista galardonado con el premio Nobel, Gary Becker, que murió temprano en el mes, mediante la lectura de sus escritos prominentes, Human Capital y The Economics of Discrimination. Numerosos economistas distinguidos han logrado el premio Nobel de Economía desde que el banco central de Suecia lo empezó a otorgar en 1969, pero Becker es de los pocos que han transformando de manera fundamental cómo los economistas (y científicos sociales, más generalmente) abordan una amplia lista de temas económicos importantes.

Becker aplicaba extraordinariamente sus percepciones profundas, especialmente en lo que se refiere a incentivos económicos, en temas que en gran parte no se habían explorado desde el lente del análisis económico. Esto incluía considerar la educación como una inversión o preguntar quiénes son los ganadores y perdedores de la discriminación, analizar cómo las familias distribuyen su tiempo y ofrecer una explicación sobre las decisiones de las mujeres en torno a la fertilidad.

Sus investigaciones sobre uno o dos de estos temas bien podrían haber sido suficientes para hacerle obtener el premio Nobel, por lo que sus sobresalientes percepciones sobre una amplia gama de asuntos son verdaderamente extraordinarias. Merecía con creces el elogio excepcional que le hizo su amigo de muchos años y mentor, el desaparecido, Milton Friedman (que también fue galardonado con el premio Nobel, porque al igual que Becker, transformó en muchas formas el pensamiento de los economistas). Becker, decía Friedman, ha sido “el científico social más importante que haya vivido y trabajado de la última mitad de siglo.”

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