Gary S. Becker’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, December 10, 1992
Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to express my gratitude to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for the superb honor conferred on me. It is not necessary to have special reasons to be happy to be here, but I do feel especially pleased. This Prize gives recognition in the most influential way possible to all economists who endured many obstacles, criticisms, and even ridicule to study and analyze broader aspects of behavior than is traditional in economics.
During the first half of this century economics became more of a systematic science, but it also became increasingly isolated from the study of society, law and government. I was fortunate to have had outstanding teachers, several who later won this Prize. They supported my desire to use economic theory to try to understand discrimination against minorities and other questions that were much broader than those that had become the core of economics. I am grateful for their insights and encouragement.
I am not revealing any professional secrets when I state that not very long ago this type of research was not popular among most economists and other social scientists. But attitudes are changing, and there are now thriving schools of scholars in many fields using what is called the economic approach to analyze nonmarket and social behavior.
Economics is a very young science in comparison with the physical and biological sciences. Still, much is now known about economic and social life, although perhaps even more remains to be learned. For the economic and social world is mysterious, and it sometimes changes quickly and in surprising fashion. Every time we peel away some of the mystery, deeper challenges rise to the surface.
Economics surely does not provide a romantic vision of life. But the widespread poverty, misery, and crises in many parts of the world, much of it unnecessary, are strong reminders that understanding economic and social laws can make an enormous contribution to the welfare of people.