The University of Chicago News
February 25, 2011
The President of the Czech Republic, a former U.S. Secretary of State, a Nobel laureate, and distinguished economists saluted the work of Gary Becker as they took part in a daylong conference held in honor of his 80th birthday.
University faculty joined with other leading scholars in the Weymouth Kirkland Courtroom at the Law School to discuss the role of markets in the modern economy, economics and government policy, and new directions and continuing breakthroughs in the field.
The remarks frequently referenced the pioneering contributions of Becker, University Professor in Economics and 1992 recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economic Sciences.
“Gary Becker is not only one of the world’s leading economists, he is also one of the most influential scholars in the world,” said President Robert J. Zimmer in his opening remarks at the Friday, Feb. 11 gathering organized by the Milton Friedman Institute for Economic Research.
"In his intellectual fearlessness, which he has demonstrated time and time again, he is an exemplar of the aspirations of the University of Chicago," Zimmer continued.
Former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz, who served as Dean of the Graduate School of Business, now Chicago Booth, was the first presenter at the conference. He discussed one of Becker’s proposals—confronting the failure of the war on drugs by legalizing and taxing drugs—and made suggestions for further research.
Shultz urged Becker to study the experience of Portugal, where drugs have been decriminalized and treatment programs offered to addicts, and to explore other ways to shift the demand curve. Shultz, who recently turned 90, joked that at 80, Becker is a promising younger scholar who has years ahead to follow up on these research suggestions.