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Gary Becker: A great friend and a great economist

Our dear friend Gary Becker passed away this weekend. Gary was celebrated as an economist and known to all as a man of exceptional integrity and warmth. I was privileged to count him as a longtime personal friend, and I am proud to say that the Institute forged a strong and enduring relationship with him. Indeed, he was a speaker at 15 of our first 16 Global Conferences, although sadly, illness kept him from attending this year.

Gary was undoubtedly one of the greatest economists of his generation. He was recognized as such by many institutions, including the Nobel economic sciences committee, who honored him in 1992, and more recently the United States government, which awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007. Gary and Institute Chairman Michael Milken struck up a close friendship many years ago based on their shared interest in human capital. Gary’s work in that area — still a fundamental focus of the Institute — earned the Nobel Prize.

He also was passionate about the contributions of bioscience to health and economic growth. Gary was a founding member of the FasterCures board. As demonstrated by this passage from his essay “Power to the Patients,” he was entirely committed to the aims of that Milken Institute center: “We need to start proposing and pursuing solutions to problems slowing medical research and productivity today if we want to find the medical solutions of tomorrow.”

Gary’s interests were wide-ranging, and he spoke incisively about many subjects at Global Conference. Here he discusses education in 2013. Two years earlier, he went one on one with Mike Milken on “The Marketplace of Ideas.”

Gary Becker was a treasure, and he will be sorely missed.

—Michael L. Klowden, CEO, Milken Institute