At the Milken Institute Global Conference, I had the chance to hear Nobel Laureate Gary Becker talk about economics with Michael Milken. I’m not very much into economics (pretty much stop at the Freakonomics level), but this was really engaging stuff. Here are some examples.
Becker on Immigration
Simply, Becker thought legal immigration could be solved by charging $50,000 at the door for up to 1 million immigrants a year. That would add $50 Billion to the US budget, would be a gating factor (they’d have to have means to get in), and would be far less arbitrary than the curent rules. It was simple, elegant, and hinged on economics. That was what made it beautiful as a solution.
Becker on Discrimination
He evidently wrote a paper a few decades back talking about racial (and other) discriminations, showing that one way to deal with it (at least to some extent) was to point out that competitive hiring requires one to hire the best person capable for the jobs at hand, else one’s competitor get hold of that talent. In essence, if the person was the best person for the job but happened to be whatever races and religions were discriminated against, then it would be important to hire anyhow, to secure the best talent.
An Economist’s Duty
Becker went on to say at one point that it was an economist’s duty to help poor people do better in the world. Not that it would be useful for there to be fewer poor people, but that this was somehow part of an economist’s duties. It makes sense, if you consider that economists bury themselves in the business of understanding the systems that move incentives around.
I Never Saw Economists In These Ways
I don’t know if Gary Becker is unique in his views, or if other economists think this way, too. They call it the dismal science, but to me, this was far from dismal, and instead, I felt that I could’ve listened to many more thoughts and opinions on what he was thinking (although he is a college professor and does drop into lecture mode easily).
A Human Business Approach
Experiencing the Milken Institute event gave me new ways to look at what we’re doing at Human Business Works, and also inspired me to think bigger all around. These people thought about sustainable business in ways that I hadn’t normally considered it. I’m not sure if they also agreed with my view that business should be relationship-minded, but I’d say that at least some of them would.
This is my last post on what I learned at Milken for now, but I shared it with you because it’s so far afield from what you and I normally attend and what you and I normally think about. It’s way outside the typical space. Hopefully you found something of interest and something to ponder.