Gary Becker Wins the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Congratulations to my friend and colleague Gary Becker who will receive the 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. He’ll have to find a place in his trophy cabinet, which already has a Nobel Prize, a National Medal of Science, the John Bates Clark Medal, and sixteen honorary doctorates.

No economist of Becker’s generation has had such a profound influence both inside and outside the profession. It is worth noting that when he first began doing some of his seminal research many years ago, on subjects like marriage and racism, he was looked down upon in the profession for straying too far outside the lines of what was considered normal, worthwhile research.

For more on Gary Becker, see this interesting autobiographical sketch, his wife Guity’s reflections on meeting Gary, and my own experiences with Gary.

Eric Crampton

Wikipedia says Friedman (1988) and Hayek (1991) also won the prize -- excellent company! But, Galbraith won in 1946 and 2000. Hmm. There seem to be party effects here...Republicans more willing to give the prize to economists at all, and Democrats only willing to give it to Galbraith. Have I missed anybody?

Ferdinand E. Banks

When I read the information about Gary Becker above I'm tempted to say what a man, what a scholar, what a credit to his university and the profession. Then I remember things like the talk he gave at Uppsala University when he was awarded the Nobel, his unusable economics/microeconomics textbook, and a statement by someone in Stockholm or Prague - I don't remember - saying that trying to get some sense out of that gentleman was a waste of time.

It's hard to remain impressed by economics.One of Mr Becker's colleagues - Arnold Harberger - gave a talk at the Australian Graduate School of Management that was strictly looney-tune, and when the Nobel Institute had some sort of anniversary, Milton Friedman used that opportunity to sprout bunkum that had the real scientists shaking their heads in amazement. The fantastic thing about that gig though was the presence of Kenneth Arrow in the audience: Arrow in the audience and Friedman in the front of the room saying every silly thing that came into his head. A perfect sketch of academic economics in action.


mickey mouse

I hope one day you too win the nobel prize and the presidential medal of honor!

Ferdinand E. Banks

Mickey Mouse, you forgot the good housekeeping seal of approval, however for your information I do have the US Army's Good Conduct Medal - even though I punched an MP in his stomach in Kobe Japan. Assuming that your "hope" is genuine, the significance here is that mistakes are made all the time.

S. Heaton

As a psychologist, I don't necessarily agree with all facets of Becker's "rational-model" approach to studying human behavior but I have interacted with him several times in a class that I took from him. I found him to be incredibly insightful, very clear, and importantly, quite kind. Moreover, he is incredibly humble in the face of uninformative and malicious attacks from individuals such as Mr. Banks. Such personal attacks are unscholarly and make me think less of Mr. Banks, certainly not Mr. Becker.

The biggest lesson that I learned from Becker w.r.t behavior is to take the constraints that individuals face seriously when modeling the cognitive foundations of their decision. This is an incredibly strong insight for psychologists who study behavior and I appreciate him greatly. Congratulations to him.

Ferdinand E. Banks

Former student S. Heaton

I'm surprised you didn't claim that in addition to being as kind and humble as all git-out, Gary Becker was a brilliant lecturer. If his lecture at Uppsala University was a sample of what he unloaded on you and your colleagues,and you found it "insightful", then I say 'psychologist heal thyself'.

About uninformative and malicious attacks from individuals such as "Mr" Banks. I've made it quite clear for many years that anyone appearing at my university's institute of economics for the purpose of making a fool of teachers and students with half-baked and/or illogical theories and/or opinions is taking a serious risk of being put in his place. In the case of Gary Becker, they hustled him out of the lecture room after he completed one of those pathetic sermons that you apparently found so valuable when you were 'interacting' with him.

"Unscholarly". It's been a long time since someone called me that, and so I want to thank you. A name like that means more to me than any jive medal. Music to my ears, and I appreciate it greatly.

Ferdinand E. Banks (Mr)


Ferdinand E. Banks

There seems to be a shortage of comments about Mr Becker, so let me add one on the 'Nobel Prize' in economics, so that you good people know exactly what we are dealing with here.

The Economics Nobel is passed out by a committee of half-educated parasites, with certain exceptions of course. The people who get the awards are individuals whom the big boss of the committee - and probably several others - believes can supply him with the plane tickets and ersatz respect so dear to his heart. There are of course worthy laureates, and there may be many of these, but obviously that trophy has not devolved on persons who deserve it far more than many who have received it.

The winners this year are obviously very intelligent persons, and may well deserve a Nobel, but not for the nonsense called 'mechanism design'. MECHANISM DESIGN IS PURE BUNKUM, JUNK SCIENCE, PRETENTIOUS SLOP. According to a blurb in The Economist, one of the applications of 'mechanism design' is in deregulation. Funny, but I am the leading academic energy economist in the world, and deregulation is one of my specialties, but I never heard of the topic until one of the ignoramuses on the Nobel committee mentioned it.

In evaluating mechanism design you should use the following simple criterion: has your world been made better, richer, more exciting and/or sensual by the presence of this pointless topic in the unread journals that take up so much space in our academic libraries. If so perhaps you should schedule an appointment with our psychologist friend above.


Warren Miller

I believe that Mr. Banks is an arrogant, jealous, and ignorant yahoo. When he has a Nobel or two or a Presidential Medal of Freedom or two, then he'll have some credibility when he runs his mouth. But not one minute before. Someone needs to get him back on his meds.

Ferdinand E. Banks

Arrogant, Warren. Arrogant is the right word. Arrogance and fanaticism - that's the key to success in this old world of ours. You'll do yourself a big favor - A BIG FAVOR - if you learn that as soon as possible.

"Jealous and ignorant": I've never heard myself described in those terms before, but there is a first time for everything. When I was expelled from Illinois Institute of Technology the dean described my good self as hopeless, and when I was bounced out of Leadership School in the Army they didn't feel that a description of any sort was necessary. Their body language and facial expressions just said 'get this ____ out of here', and off I went for a tour on one of Fort Ord's splendid garbage trucks.

"Runs his mouth." I would have said 'running off at the mouth', which is an absolutely wonderful American expression. And of course "meds". Meds almost rhymes with Fred, which is the name I was given when I joined the party circuit in Stockholm. 'Hit those meds, Fred, put 'em in your pocket till I get back'. Back from Alexandra's and the Cafe Boulevard, to be exact.

Let me close this 'post' by apologizing for the use of the word "parasite". Charlatans is what those people are. Parasitic charlatans to be precise. And I forgot one thing, Warren. In a teacher evaluation a couple of centuries ago one young gentleman said that I not only was the worst teacher he ever had, but I couldn't even speak the English language. I should have realized then that credibility was a long way off.

Ferdinand E. Banks (aka Professor Fred Banks)


Warren Miller

By his own admission, life has sent Mr. Banks some important messages. He received none of them. A no-name institution in Scandinavia was where he (deservedly) landed. Besides being a man with too much time on his hands, he clearly couldn't make it in the real world if his life depended on it. Too bad it didn't.

Ferdinand E. Banks

Work out, Warren baby, that's exactly what I wanted to hear. Music to my ears. Now dig these sounds.

12 books published, and visiting professor at 12 universities - plus a foot soldier at universities in Austraia (Brisbane), Lisbon and Dakar (Senegal).
I have no doubt at all that I'm the best economics teacher in the world, although unfortunately I haven't figured out how to prove it. If you've been in Geneva (Switzerland), my office was just over the arch as you go into the entrance courtyard at the Palais des Nations. I lived a couple of blocks from there, when I wasn't skiing of course. More than three years in that groovy city.

Now let's look at the other side of the coin. I failed all my freshman courses at Illinois Institute of Technology except English and History. For example, I failed college algebra twice, and the dean pronounced me hopeless. I was fired from my job at Hughes aircraft in LA and also pronounced hopeless, and was booted out of Leadership School in the Army. I guess that I applied for full professor in Sweden at least a half-dozen times and was pronounced incompetent the same number of times. I failed officer candidate boards three times in the army, to include once at the Pentagon. I challenged the first sergeant in my company in Japan to some fist drill, and got the hell beaten out of me. My superiors didn't like me very much when I was in Germany, and I was very lucky to avoid some time in what we called 'the slams'.

As for life sending me some important messages, I worked for a year as an engineer for the US Navy, and I remember something I read somewhere at Great Lakes: ON EVERY SHIP THERE IS SOMEBODY WHO DOESN'T GET THE MESSAGE. I must be one of those someones.

Finally, about making it in the real world; I've never been able to make it yet. I don't see why things will change.

Ferdinand E. Banks - Professor in the School of Engineering, Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok.


Ferdinand E. Banks

Stuck at 14. Only 14 comments. Come on, Warren, Mickey Mouse, Angeline. Let's show these people some real trash talking. You say that Uppsala University is a no-name university, Warren. Hmm. If you had spent a few years dancing and drinking in the student clubs here, you might be a little less tolerant of the low-renters on the Nobel Committee and some of their choices - especially one whose name I won't call, but whose initials are G as in Gary and B as in Becker.

Ferdinand E. Banks


Successfully I was browsing the internet today and I perfectly freaked out. I literally found my ex-girlfriend pictures on the internet. I have no thought when she did this but my ex-girlfriend was making at liberty with some other teen.
Does anyone be suffering with any info on this ex-girlfriend site?


I know this topic is over a hundred years old now, but for anyone browsing, I just want to say that I've read:
Freakonomics by Becker, as well as The Political Economy of World Energy by Ferdinand E. Banks (on assignment while pursuing my undergraduate degree in Econ).

It's obvious that Banks is one of the better teachers of Economics living today to anyone who has been through a few Econ courses and gone through the common textbooks (which have merit but follow formula, ie. Krugman) and Becker is merely a brilliant hack who provides a few hours of shallow entertainment. No one walked away from the last page of Freakonomics knowing an iota more about how the world or its economy actually works.

I do wish Banks would get a Nobel Prize (I aint gonna hold my breath), just so that his publications would be recognized and used more by the Econ departments around the world.