Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Non-Economic Factors

The previous post seems to rest on two assumptions:

1. Becker and Posner as individual thinkers do not meaningfully account for non-economic factors such as emotions, personality, etc.

2. Economics as a discipline is unable to account for these factors.

Regarding the second point, I'm not sure I'm qualified to comment, not having any formal training in economics. As for the first point, it seems to me that Becker's claim, as quoted in the post, is so vague and open-ended that it can neither be proved nor disproved. What would it mean to "deal in a useful way" with nonmaterial factors? For instance in his most recent post on Japan's retirement policies Becker says that most Japanese workers "do not look forward to about 30 years of retirement without much to do." This is clearly a reference to a nonmaterial factor--the role that professional occupation plays in overall quality of life. Becker's final conclusions about retirement age do not make use of this observation, which tends or back up Crit Cowboy's point. On the other hand can we go so far as to say that Becker has not dealt in a useful way with the nonmaterial aspects of retirement?