|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 »
"It matters ethically, of course, how the rich obtained their wealth… What does not matter ethically are the routine historical ups and downs of the Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality, or the excesses of the 1 per cent of the 1 per cent, of a sort one could have seen three centuries ago in Versailles. … There are ways to help the poor—let the Great Enrichment proceed, as it has in China and India—but charity or expropriation are not the ways."
McCloskey has recorded a podcast on her forthcoming book Bourgeois Equality—the last in her Bourgeois Era trilogy—with hosts Ron Baker and Ed Kless of the VeraSage Institute.
Evan Davis, who interviewed Deirdre McCloskey for an episode of BBC Radio 4's "Analysis" program (listen), has written a column pitting McCloskey's views on capital and inequality against those of the economist Thomas Piketty, author of the acclaimed Capital in the Twenty-First Century.
The Online Library of Liberty is featuring new commentary on Deirdre McCloskey's books Bourgeois Virtues and Bourgeois Dignity, including a lead essay by Donald Boudreaux, responses from Joel Mokyr, John Nye, and McCloskey (.pdf), and further discussion.
In a fresh draft from the concluding volume in her trilogy, McCloskey writes: "I ask you to rethink with me our economics and our economic history."
"The cause of the bourgeois betterments…was an economic liberation and a sociological dignifying of, say, a wig-maker of Bolton, son of a tailor, messing about with spinning machines, who died in 1792 as Sir William Arkwright possessed of one of the largest bourgeois fortunes in England. The Industrial Revolution and especially the Great Enrichment came from liberating the commoners from compelled service to an hereditary elite, such as the noble lord, or compelled obedience to a state functionary, such as the economic planner. And it came from according honor to the formerly despised of Bolton—or of Ōsaka, or of Lake Wobegon—the commoners exercising their liberty to relocate a factory or invent airbrakes."
Paul Solman interviews Deirdre McCloskey—and Enno Schmidt, Charles Murray, Veronique de Rugy, David Graeber, Felix Oberholzer-Gee, Barbara Bergmann, and Megan McArdle—for PBS NewsHour (video) on the policy of a guaranteed basic income.
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.
McCloskey tells ieaTV about the magnitude of economic changes over the past two centuries and explores the causes of those changes.
Deirdre McCloskey speaks with Stephen Sackur of BBC's "HARDtalk" (video) about inequality, markets, and virtues.
"Every enterprise in a capitalist economy works through solidarity, love, sympathy, common courtesy… Any economy, socialist or capitalist or however you wish, is a mixture of the virtues of love, hope, and faith, on the one hand, and the virtue of prudence—which by itself is called greed, but when it's in tune with justice and courage and temperance and love, it works pretty well."
"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."
McCloskey finds in these the causes of the great increase in material well-being over the past two centuries.
Deirdre McCloskey offered this talk as part of UNL's "Humanities on the Edge" series.
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.
"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.