(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Gary Becker

“To be wealthy and honored in an unjust society is a disgrace”*…




Scroll a bit, and you come to…


Then scroll… and scroll… and scroll… and scroll… and scroll… and scroll… for a visualization of relative levels of wealth in the U.S., with provocative facts and comparisons along the way: “Wealth shown to scale.”

[TotH to EWW]

* Confucius, The Analects


As we wonder if enough is ever enough, we might spare a thought for one of the architects of the economic reality in which we live, Gary Becker; he died on this date in 2014.  A Nobel laureate economist with an interest in the social sciences, Becker updated the concept of “human capital” (which dated, of course, back to the days of Adam Smith and slavery), arguing that labor economics is part of capital theory.  He mused that “economists and plan-makers have fully agreed with the concept of investing on human beings.”  In this and other assertions, he was a defining proponent of the Chicago school of economics.

220px-GaryBecker-May24-2008 source


Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 3, 2020 at 1:01 am

Fitting the crime?…


Recently, The Economist took a look at the fines being levied against corporations found guilty of crimes. Their assessment was rather bleak:

The economics of crime prevention starts with a depressing assumption: executives simply weigh up all their options, including the illegal ones. Given a risk-free opportunity to mis-sell a product, or form a cartel, they will grab it. Most businesspeople are not this calculating, of course, but the assumption of harsh rationality is a useful way to work out how to deter rule-breakers.

In an influential 1968 paper on the economics of crime, Gary Becker of the University of Chicago set out a framework in which criminals weigh up the expected costs and benefits of breaking the law. The expected cost of lawless behaviour is the product of two things: the chance of being caught and the severity of the punishment if caught*

The always-amazing David McCandliss at Information is Beautiful has put the issue into graphic perspective.

We’ve gathered and visualized the biggest corporate fines of the last seven years, not just as raw amounts, but also as a percentage of each company’s profits. That way you can see for yourself if the punishment was painful or puny…

See the full graphic (full size) here, and see the underlying data here.

*Becker had created the model as a framework for considering appropriately-discouraging penalties for malfeasance. He was horrified later to learn that it was being taught by business school colleagues as a decision aid.


As we contemplate crime and punishment, we might recall that it was on this date in 1950 that the first television show with a recorded “laugh track” (The Harry McCune Show) aired in the U.S.

CBS TV engineer Charlie Douglass, the “father of the laugh track”



Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 9, 2012 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: