Economists generally accept as a given the old adage that there’s no accounting for tastes. Nobel Laureate Gary Becker disagrees, and in this lively new collection he confronts the problem of preferences and values: how they are formed and how they affect our behavior. He argues that past experiences and social influences form two basic capital stocks: personal and social. He then applies these concepts to assessing the effects of advertising, the power of peer pressure, the nature of addiction, and the function of habits. This framework promises to illuminate many other realms of social life previously considered off-limits by economists.
[Becker’s] achievement has been to create an elegant structure, internally consistent and based on reasonable assumptions, and to use it to generate many testable propositions about how people grapple with the complexities of personal choice… [He] has helped to liberate economics from a straitjacket of oversimplification and narrowness of view.
Gary Becker has used his regular economics column in Business Week to communicate economic truths in plain English and to apply them to the issues of the day… [In this] collection of scholarly essays, Becker applies technically sophisticated economic arguments to work habits, parental altruism and other matters.
The formation of preferences or tastes and the role tastes play in consumer behavior provide the underlying themes of Accounting for Tastes. Becker’s goal in explaining this role is to extend the assumption that individuals behave in ways that maximize utility based on preferences independent of past and future behaviors… Becker’s work shows that economic theory can be fruitfully applied to a wide range of questions in the social sciences. He has extended the borders of economics by applying an economic approach to the analysis of a number of questions considered by some to be primarily within the domain of social sciences other than economics… [Accounting for Tastes] is thought provoking.
- 292 pages
- 5-15/16 x 8-15/16 inches
- Harvard University Press
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