The Nobel-crowned economist and the venerable jurist have started a joint blog. Most of my American readers are probably well aware of both gentlemen’s achievements; to me, these two thinkers are much more than just celebrity academics.
Gary Becker was probably to first recognized academic to apply standard microeconomic approaches, generalized as needed, to the study of literally everything, from drug addiction to discrimination to the evolution of one’s taste for classical music. Becker’s work is one of the reasons I find economics thrilling; it is indeed an imperial science because it has more than once stumbled across analytical frameworks that fit other branches of social science wonderfully — and that is a strong argument for teaching economics, psychology, sociology and, yes, history as interwoven and interacting, not separate and self-contained.
Richard Posner has been a federal appeals judge since 1981. Along with Becker and a few other innovative thinkers, he should be regarded as a founder of the Law and Economics school, which preaches that economic principles should be applied towards solving legal problems. Posner is an amazingly prolific author — his books include Sex and Reason, Law and Literature and The Economics of Justice among a host of others, to say nothing of his legal opinions. I recall that reading him affected me doubly: it made me wish — a hundredth time — that I had been born in a common-law country, for then I would have striven to become, if not a lawyer, a legal scholar; and at times it made me want to punch the guy in the mug. (This urge is a sure sign you’re capable of eventually putting together an academically respectable counterargument.) In other words, Posner influenced my thinking a lot, yes indeed.
Becker note. Look through the references in this working paper (PDF warning): Tibor Scitovsky, Robert Frank, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, Matthew Rabin — aren’t they students of human behavior from an economic standpoint, too?