|Deirdre Nansen McCloskey|
|Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication
University of Illinois at Chicago
Professor of Economic History, Gothenburg University, Sweden
Deirdre McCloskey is an economist, historian, and rhetorician who has written sixteen books and around 400 scholarly pieces on topics ranging from technical economics and statistics to transgender advocacy and ethics. She is known as a "conservative" economist, University-of-Chicago style (she taught for 12 years there), but protests that "I'm a literary, quantitative, postmodern, free-market, progressive Episcopalian, Midwestern woman from Boston who was once a man. Not 'conservative'! I'm a Christian libertarian." Her latest book, Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World, argues that an ideological change, rather than saving or exploitation, is what made us rich... more »
McCloskey writes: "I reach here finally the last volume of a trilogy, The Bourgeois Era."
"The bourgeoisie, though despised after 1848 by the artists and intellectuals, led the Great Enrichment, improving the lives of poor and rich together with such ideas as the electric motor or the land-grant university. The technical and institutional ideas were made possible by a new liberty and dignity for commoners, among them the middling sort. … The three volumes defend such an 'ideational' hypothesis against a materialism long dominant."
"What changed in Europe, and then the world, was not the material conditions of society, or 'commercialization,' or a new security of property, but the rhetoric of trade and production and improvement—that is, the way influential people talked about earning a living, such as Defoe, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Hume, Turgot, Franklin, Smith, Paine, Wilkes, Condorcet, Pitt, Sieyes, Napoleon, Godwin, Humboldt, Wollstonecraft, Bastiat, Martineau, Mill, Manzoni, Macaulay, Peel, and Emerson."
In this essay McCloskey reviews the intellectual history of the seven principal virtues and emphasizes that they comprise a system.
"The system of the virtues developed for two millennia in the West had been widely abandoned by the end of the eighteenth century, with Machiavelli, then Bacon, then Hobbes, then Bernard Mandeville as isolated but scandalous precursors of Kant and Bentham, who then rigorously finished off the job. It was not dropped because it was found on careful consideration to be mistaken. It was merely set aside with a distracted casualness, perhaps as old-fashioned, or as unrealistic in an age with a new idea of the Real, or as associated with religious and political systems themselves suddenly objectionable."
Deirdre McCloskey offers a meditation on work and the moral obligation to self-development.
"To put it economically, God wants us to face scarcity. He wants it not because he is a trickster who is amused by seeing us struggle with disease and the law of gravity in our pain-filled and finite lives. He so loves us that, after Eden, he wants us to have the dignity of choice."
Video is now available of the October 28 webinar given by Deirdre McCloskey on statistical significance. ICPSR also has posted a new interview with McCloskey on that "tiny technique" of which too much is made.
"Real scientists make a judgment within the context of the conversation of physics or geology or whatever it is. The same needs to be done—and is done, but secretly, behind the curtain—in economics and sociology and medicine."
More: McCloskey, in the New Republic: "Give Chelsea Manning a medal and some estrogen."
"We have weaker ties—weaker connections with each other—but we have more of them… We still have community in the modern world."
"A Neo-Institutionalism of Measurement, Without Measurement: A Comment on Douglas Allen’s The Institutional Revolution" is Deirdre McCloskey's contribution to a symposium that will appear in a future issue of the Review of Austrian Economics.
“Allen does yeoman work in explaining some of the peculiarities of British public administration, such as the reliance on aristocratic honor and on the prize system in naval warfare. But he attributes to public administration an implausible effect on private incomes. The merging of power and plenty is mistaken.”
A five-chapter excerpt from McCloskey's book Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World that contends particularly with the work of economist Douglass North.
Deirdre McCloskey will be teaching a four-day graduate course, "Humanomics: Economics and the Humanities," June 2-5 at Jönköping University in Sweden. Click here for more information and to apply.
McCloskey delivered the annual John Bonython Lecture at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney.
This new seminar paper from Deirdre McCloskey (download, .pdf) includes some material from the next book in her Bourgeois Era series.
"The profit in a business that the left abhors is temporary. The reward to venturing for example on robotization has been eroded time and again among improvers by their competition, leaving as fruits much cheaper cloth and steel and autos. After all, a blast furnace and a spinning jenny, or for that matter an Acheulean hand ax or a chariot wheel, are 'robots,' that is, contrivances that abridge labor. In Afrikaans the word 'robot' means what it means elsewhere, following its coinage in Hungary. But it is also the normal Afrikaans word for 'traffic light.' Precisely: any contrivance substitutes for raw labor, equivalent to a robot…"
In this persuasive short video, Deirdre McCloskey argues that, in a free society, it's rhetoric all the way down.
"The spirit is not damaged by trying Monday through Friday to innovate and supply in ways that make other people better off. Thank the Lord for the Bourgeois Deal and the Great Enrichment, and for the breakdown of hierarchy that caused them."
Deirdre McCloskey identifies the real economics in Robert Fogel's classic work on railroads and growth.
A chapter-by-chapter outline of Deirdre McCloskey's in-progress book The Treasured Bourgeoisie: How Markets and Innovation Became Virtuous, 1600-1848, and Then Suspect, a third volume in her series on The Bourgeois Era.
"Boldizzoni's attack on cliometrics is unpersuasive, in part because he does not grasp economics and its uses, in part because he admires uncritically the German Historical School and their modern descendants, the French Annalistes..."
Stephen Ziliak and Deirdre McCloskey have the last word in an Econ Journal Watch exchange with Thomas Mayer over Ziliak and McCloskey's The Cult of Statistical Significance.