A Freakonomics Quiz: Inside the Mind of Gary Becker

The annual skit party in the University of Chicago economics department gives the graduate students their one chance each year to exact revenge on the faculty for all the tough love/mistreatment we give them the other 364 days of the year.

At this year’s skit party, there was a faculty version of the old Bob Eubanks TV show The Newlywed Game. My partner was the legendary economist Gary Becker. Alas, we did not fare well.

The first question was, “Who is Gary’s favorite economist?” I thought I knew this one for sure. I guessed Milton Friedman. Gary answered Adam Smith. (Although he later apologized to me and said Friedman was the right answer.)

Then they asked, “In Gary’s opinion, how many more quarters will the current recession last?” I guessed he would say three more quarters, but his actual answer was two more quarters.

The next question was, “Who does Gary think will win the next Nobel prize in economics?” This is a hard one, because there are so many reasonable guesses. I figured if Becker writes a blog with Posner, he might think Posner would win the Nobel prize, so that was my answer. Gary said Gene Fama instead.

The last question we got wrong was one that was posed to Gary, asking which of the following three people I would most like to have lunch with: Marilyn Monroe, Napolean, or Karl Marx. I know Gary has a major crush on Marilyn Monroe, so that was the answer I gave, even though the question was about who I would want to have lunch with, not who Gary would want to have lunch with. Gary answered Karl Marx (which makes me wonder what he thinks of me), but did volunteer, as I strongly suspected, that he himself would of course prefer Marilyn to either of the other two.

So after that rather lengthy preamble, which gives you some insight into how Gary Becker thinks, here is the Freakonomics quiz. Over lunch a few weeks back, Gary said, “The only purpose of economics is _______.”

The first commenter to guess what ______ was, wins Freakonomics schwag.


Adam Kapor

employment for economists?

evan c.

"efficiency."

Or, maybe, "to get a free lunch on Steven Levitt."

Arjan

help figure out what questions to ask

Annie

To try to explain the past

Jonathan S

... to efficiently allocate scarce resources among competing agents.

M

to choose given the available options.

LD

to find reason.

ukdan

to tell people who've made more money than the economist what to do with their money.

Gareth Chantler

personal amusement

Laura

I'm going to guess that the only purpose of economics is to understand society's problems

ceolaf

tenure

ceolaf

to justify our prejudices

GeneralDisarray

guess wrong

DavidH

... to explain why what was not foreseen was inevitable.

Derek

To understand human choice

Donny

observation

Levi

to pick up chicks.

John Lewis

to define individual utility appropriately.

Sony

to better understand human behavior

adrienne

entertainment