I was not sympathetic to the assumption that criminals had radically different motivations from everyone else.’
Gary Becker, Prize Lecture to the memory of Alfred Nobel, 9 December 1992
Many economists have been accused of seeking to solve mathematical equations without thinking about the real-life impact of their theories. Gary Becker is certainly no slouch in terms of academic economics, but he has applied a neoclassical view of the discipline to a range of very ‘real world’ problems that were previously thought to be the sole domain of sociologists and lawyers. These included racial discrimination, crime and punishment, how families work, and understanding drug addiction.