©Deirdre Nansen McCloskey | COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

deirdremccloskey Deirdre Nansen McCloskey
Distinguished Scholar, Isaiah Berlin Chair in Liberal Thought
Cato Institute

Deirdre Nansen McCloskey is Senior Fellow and holds the Isaiah Berlin Chair of Liberal Thought at the Cato Institute in Washington DC. From 2015 at the University of Illinois at Chicago she has been Distinguished Professor Emerita of Economics and of History, and Professor Emerita of English and of Communication. Trained at Harvard in the 1960s as an economist, she has written twenty-five books and edited nine more, and has published some five hundred articles on economic theory, economic history, philosophy, rhetoric, statistics, feminism, ethics, law, and liberalism. She taught for twelve years at the University of Chicago in the Economics Department during its glory days, but now describes herself as a “literary, quantitative, postmodern, free-market, progressive-Episcopalian, ex-Marxist, Midwestern woman from Boston who was once a man. Not ‘conservative’! I’m a Christian classical liberal, practicing humanomics.” Her most recent popular books are Why Liberalism Works: How True Liberal Values Produce a Freer, More Equal, Prosperous World for All (2019) and with Art Carden Leave Me Alone and I’ll Make You Rich: The Bourgeois Deal (2020). Also in 2019 the University of Chicago Press issued a 20th-anniversary re-issue of Crossing: A Transgender Memoir, with a new Afterword. But she’s technical and quantitative, too. For example, with Stephen Ziliak in 2008 she wrote The Cult of Statistical Significance, widely noted, which shows that null hypothesis tests of “significance” are, in the absence of a substantive loss function, meaningless...more »

"My whole life is nothing but a desperate struggle to overcome the division of labor and think about everything myself, so that it comes together in a head and thus becomes one again. I do not want to know everything. I merely want to unify splintered things."
Elias Canetti (1905–1994), The Human Province (in German 1973; trans. J. Neugroschel, 1978; republished London: Andre Deutsch, 1985), p. 34.

Balancing economic prudence and sustainability

HS Talks, 20 May 2024.

In this audio interview, Prof. Emerita Deirdre McCloskey from the University of Illinois discusses the intersection of economic prudence and sustainability. The conversation covers topics such as economic growth, resource management, and ethical considerations in balancing economic and environmental goals. Watch here.

LibertyCon International: Day One

Learn Liberty, 2 February 2024.

The largest international pro-liberty gathering in the world hosted Professor Deirdre McCloskey. Watch the replay on this video.

La globalización crea una vecindad mundial que beneficia a todos

Instituto Cato, 4 January 2024.

Deirdre N. McCloskey dice que la globalización coloca a todo aquel cuyo gobierno lo permita en un vecindario global en el que el precio de un televisor Samsung en un Best Buy de Washington es prácticamente el mismo que en Pekín o Nueva Delhi. Lee el artículo aquí.

The Secret Ideology Behind Barbie

The Invisible Lens, 30 November 2023.

Is it “woke,” as Ben Shapiro called it? What solutions to sexism does it actually propose? In this video, Professor Deirdre McCloskey analyzes Barbie from her unique perspective as both an economics professor and someone who has become a woman.

Is Teaching Expert Economists a Good Idea?

International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, 2023, 17: 1–3, August 2023.

This article by Deirdre Nansen McCloskey discusses the significance of practical problem-solving in economics education, offering insightful perspectives for those interested in effective teaching methods.

Deirdre McCloskey explains how freedom and bourgeoise dignity enriched the world.

Ideas Having Sex, 03 July 2023.

Renowned economist Deirdre McCloskey explores the enriching power of freedom and bourgeoise dignity in this episode of "Ideas Having Sex." Discover the untold story of how these forces have transformed our world, challenging traditional economic explanations and emphasizing the role of ideas in driving global prosperity.

Author John Horgan recommended Crossing as one of their favorite books

Shepherd, 08 May 2023.

Author John Horgan recently recommended Crossing as one of their favorite books. You can read their recommendation here:

"Sex is an essential part of who we are. What determines our sexual preferences? Do they stem primarily from nature or nurture? Deirdre McCloskey, an eminent economist, is especially qualified to answer these questions. She began her life as Donald, who was married and in his 50s when he realized that he was really a she and became a woman. Crossing, a memoir of McCloskey’s agonizing, exhilarating transformation, is a fascinating deep dive into sexual identity."

Religion Is Not Incompatible With Liberalism: An Interview with Deirdre McCloskey

ReImagining Liberty, 15 April 2023.

In this episode, host Aaron Ross Powell interviews economist and philosopher Deirdre McCloskey about the relationship between religion and liberalism. McCloskey argues that religion and liberal values are not incompatible and can work together to promote a more free and just society. The conversation touches on the history of liberalism and religion, and how religion can foster empathy and love in individuals and communities. Listen in for a thought-provoking discussion on the intersection of religion and liberalism.

Hayek: A Life, 1899–1950

C-SPAN, 17 March 2023.

In Hayek: A Life, historians of economics Bruce Caldwell and Hansjoerg Klausinger draw on never‐​before‐​seen archival and family material to produce an authoritative account of Hayek’s first five decades. This includes portrayals of his early career in Vienna; his relationships in London and Cambridge; his family disputes; and definitive accounts of the creation of The Road to Serfdom and of the founding meeting of the Mont Pèlerin Society. Deirdre N. McCloskey discusses the book "Hayek: A Life" at the Cato Institute.

Beyond positivism, behaviorism, and neoinstitutionalism in economics

PhilosophyPodcasts.org, 12 March 2023.

Deirdre N. McCloskey discusses her book, Beyond Positivism, Behaviorism, and Neoinstitutionalism in Economics, on the Philosophy Podcast with August Baker.

Slavery Robbed America

The UnPopulist, 4 July 2022.

“Slavery and wealth are linked in American lore,” notes McCloskey in a Fourth of July essay, but economic history shows that “the ‘piled’ plunder of the crime of slavery is dwarfed by the returns of the honest commerce that might have been” had Black Americans been free and equal.

“Free and equal Black Americans would have generated far more wealth in America than enslaved ones did. Economic history is unequivocal: Jefferson’s slavery wasn’t the basis of America’s prosperity; Jefferson’s liberalism, so beautifully expressed in the document we celebrate today, was.”

Piketty’s Lawyerly Schemes

Times Literary Supplement, April 2022.

“Bastiat declared that someone who does not carry the analysis beyond seen, given, initial, legal structures is ‘not an economist.’” Assessing two new volumes from Thomas Piketty for the Times Literary Supplement (draft available here on DeirdreMcCloskey.org), McCloskey writes: “Piketty is in Bastiat’s terms not an economist, but a quantitative lawyer, imagining this or that move on the seen board of a chess game.”

“Not being an economist, though professing economics and offering to arrange the pieces of the economy, is not the worst of sins. Some of my best friends are lawyers. But as an earlier liberal, Montaigne, noted ‘anyone who meddles’ with changing the laws ‘must be very sure that he sees the weakness of what he is casting out and the goodness of what he is bringing in.’ Such prudence would not describe Piketty.”

An Address on Liberty

On the Occasion of the 800th Anniversary of the University of Padova, 2022.

“The self-determination of universities,” says McCloskey in honoring the 800th anniversary of the University of Padova, “has been an unequivocally good thing.”

“At one time the Chinese examination system and the Muslim gatherings of scholars were the world’s greatest producers of knowledge. Since 1222, and especially since 1810 and the founding of the University of Berlin as the first unification of teaching and research, the European university has taken the lead.”

It Happens Late

Erasmus Forum, 13 July 2021.

In an interview by Hywel Williams, McCloskey muses on New England’s transition from a society dominated by a rigorous Calvinism to one that experienced enormous economic growth.

“From the 17th century to the 18th, you go from a Calvinist, rigorous, ‘we’re going to found a new Jerusalem,’ to a figure like Benjamin Franklin, who was questionably Christian at all… He’s the emblem of the new innovistic figure in the economy and in politics. It’s an amazing change, and here’s my point, here’s what I want everyone to understand: It happens late. It’s not because of Christianity. As you point out, Christianity, among the three Abrahamic religions, is the least friendly to commerce in its origin. It's certainly not the Catholic Church, back a thousand years ago, that made for this. It's not even Luther in particular, because like Anglicanism, his version of Protestantism had a hierarchy. It’s the people like the Anabaptists in the 16th century, or the Quakers in England in the 17th century, who have this flat idea of church governance.”

Is Space Exploration Worth It?

Prospect, 5 June 2021.

Not if “we” should pay for it, says McCloskey in a debate with Marcus Chown in the pages of Prospect.

“Ask what else we should be doing. A bridge to nowhere is a worse use of resources than a bridge to somewhere. Near space is one thing: communications satellites have quickly become commercial enterprises. But in the present state of science and engineering, it’s crazily premature to send rockets into deep space on exploratory missions.”

Confused Advocacy of Neo-Institutionalism

DeirdreMcCloskey.org, June 2021.

McCloskey agrees “with nearly everything” that Peter Boettke says in his new collection of essays The Struggle for a Better World, but not about “the proper relation between the Austrian economics of Israel Kirzner and Don Lavoie and the neo-institutionalism of Douglass North and Daron Acemoglu.” Her draft review of the book is available here on DeirdreMcCloskey.org.

“Pete wisely wants to encourage Schumpeterian progress…to ‘unleash the creative potential of mankind.’ But institutional analysis on the basis of incentives and the routine of rules of the game is not going to do it. Pete’s neo-institutional formula of ‘how alternative institutional arrangements impede or encourage…learning by economic actors’ contradicts his Austrian formulation of ‘the processes by which economic actors adapt creatively on the margin [and beyond: Schumpeter, remember] to changing circumstances.’ The one is North, the other is Kirzner. I vote for Kirzner, and so should Pete.”

Causation in Historical Explanations

Journal of Institutional Economics, May 2021.

Paolo Silvestri interviews McCloskey about Beyond Behaviorism, Positivism, and Neo-Institutionalism in Economics, one of her soon-to-be-published books, for the Journal of Institutional Economics.

“People say ‘Obviously, rule of law caused the Great Enrichment. Look what would have happened without it.’ That is the structure of North’s books and Acemoglu and Robinson’s and the like. Look around for a necessary condition that one likes and then elevate it to sufficient. But the trouble is that the necessary conditions the neo-institutionalists elevate in explaining the Great Enrichment are commonplace. For example, the legalist neo-institutionalists always have English common law in mind, because they’ve heard that England had common law and it was where the Great Enrichment started. They do not realize that common laws were, well, common, all over, say, Europe; that Chinese law was very good, and so elsewhere; that the basic framework of English common law was set ‘before the time of Edward I,’ that is, in 1272; and that law didn’t change much in England until the 1830s; not, for example, in the Glorious Revolution of 1689, and many other points that they miss, showing that they haven’t actually studied the legal history.”

Locating Liberals

Liber-thé, February 2021.

Where are liberals along the ideological spectrum? “Floating above,” says McCloskey in a new interview (also available en français, from Liber-thé).

“People want simplicity, and therefore want to locate everybody somewhere along the old spectrum. They are puzzled when the rare French liberal says that she favors unregulated economic permissions (right) but also unregulated social permissions (left). If the puzzled people are leftists they see the economic permissions, which they hate, and therefore place the liberal on the right. If they are rightists they see the social permissions, which they hate, and therefore place the liberal on the left. They do not pause to listen to her when she replies, ‘My dears, understand that liberty is liberty is liberty.’”

Nationalistic Feelings

Letras Libres, 11 January 2021.

Are liberal policies best suited to defend and empower minorities? Yes, says McCloskey, in response to a question from Cristina Casabón (full interview available here in English, and from Letras Libres en español).

“We need to accept that people have nationalistic feelings (I do love the USA, for example); and the feelings, too, of solidarity (I do often love my poor neighbor), which socialism elevates to the single virtue, with results in hideous coercion similar to the wars that nationalism inspires. As liberals we need to point out gently to our nationalist and socialist friends that liberalism, too, can honor Home and Fraternity—but allows people to pursue them in their own ways, instead of forbidding Moslem women, say, to wear a head scarf. ”

Globalization Will Resume

Valor Econômico, 16 November 2020.

The election of Joe Biden as U.S. President means a resumption of globalization, says McCloskey in an interview (available also em português).

“The world will move back to multi-lateralism such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Unfortunately, Biden like most people does not understand that ‘protection’ is a scheme for one group to steal from another, auto workers for example stealing from auto buyers. But his ignorance does not put him outside the circle of regular democratic politicians. ”

Did Christianity Cause Liberalism?

Svensk Tidskrift, 11 September 2020.

McCloskey disputes the notion of economists Daniel Klein and P. J. Hill that Christianity was a cause of the development of liberalism.

“Klein says that ‘the important assumptions of [a] worldview…were brought forward by Christianity. At the center is that you are a soul. You are an interpretive creature with moral agency, a will, and a conscience.’ But not ‘by Christianity.’ If one instead admits ‘also by Judaism and Islam and all the rest,’ then what is the case for liberalism coming from Western Christianity—that illiberal and imperial structure inherited from Rome? Klein, following [Larry] Siedentop, claims strangely that tyranny leads to liberty. … Really, on its face, and I fear deeper, it is nonsense.”

Listen Even to the Other Side

Prospect Magazine, 13 August 2020.

McCloskey, a signer of the “Letter on Justice and Open Debate” that appeared recently in Harper’s Magazine, addresses some “silly things” said by fellow signer J. K. Rowling.

“Take Rowling’s opinions on the trans issue. I do not want to ban her from conferences or stop people from reading her childish books. I just want her, and the numerous people who wax wroth when anyone says that gender is a social construction, to listen to the other side. I want to correct what I believe are her mistakes, as she can then correct mine. Nice. As an economist, I approve of mutually advantageous exchange.”

Capitalism and Covid

Institute of Art and Ideas, June 2020.

McCloskey, Grace Blakeley, Paul Krugman, and Matthew Taylor discuss the pandemic and debate governments’ responses to it.

The Little Midwestern City

Draft for Lauck, ed., The History of the Midwest, forthcoming.

“The little Midwestern city has for a century or so been an object of contempt by most of the tribe of scribblers and lecturers and preachers,” the “clerisy,” says McCloskey, in a draft book chapter. “The contempt is especially strong if the cleric is an American coastie, or a coastie-educated academic.”

“She might have a better opinion of the little cities of the Midwest if she had actually spent time in Dell Rapids, South Dakota or Columbus, Indiana or Iowa City, Iowa. … But mostly she won’t, because she has read American fiction since 1922 and Babbitt. And she won’t because she has taken so much from European ideologies of left or right, flourishing after the disappointments of the revolutionary year of 1848. The ideologies recommended hatred of the bourgeoisie and disdain for the bourgeoisie’s ideology of liberalism. ”

Back to Import Substitution?

Fronteiras do Pensamento, May 2020.

McCloskey considers the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Brazil and its politics in an interview by Francisco de Azeredo.

“There is a lot of silly talk about ‘shortening supply chains,’ in other words going back to the policy of ‘import substitution’ of Raúl Prebisch, Hans Singer, and Celso Furtado, which ruined Latin American economies for decades. ... You can depend on it that businesspeople will think up methods of insurance against future plagues better than government-imposed restrictions on whom you can buy from.”

Capitalism Is Good for Women

Oxford Union debate, 20 February 2020.

McCloskey spoke on the negative side of an Oxford Union debate in which the house held “That Feminism Cannot Be Capitalist.” Her brief notes for the debate are available here on DeirdreMcCloskey.org.

On American Agricultural Development

Letter to Alan Olmstead and Paul Rhode, April 2020.

McCloskey praises the work of Alan Olmstead and Paul Rhode on American agricultural development:

“I think you need to somehow get your news out to students of technology more broadly. Like Joel Mokyr and me, you are saying that innovation depends on politics and ideology and, to use a too-vague word, ‘culture’ more than on endowments or faux ‘logics’ of factor prices. As Tocqueville said, ‘Looking at the turn given to the human spirit in England by political life; seeing the Englishman…inspired by the sense that he can do anything…I am in no hurry to inquire whether nature has scooped out ports for him, or given him coal or iron.’”

Freedom Does It

Why Liberalism Works, Korean ed., 2020.

Free adults, and not merely educated ones, make a country rich, as McCloskey writes in her preface to the Korean edition of Why Liberalism Works.

“South Korea’s devotion to education, to be sure, doesn’t hurt. But education without freedom would merely make better slaves, not better entrepreneurs. Most venturing in the economy doesn’t require a PhD in engineering. In the Soviet Union, education was excellent, as many North Korean students learned, but served only a nightmare of gulags and five-year plans.”

Why Does Liberalism Work?

The Economist, 8 January 2020.

McCloskey tells The Economist in only 150 words, though there's also more in a new interview.

“A liberal ‘rhetoric’ explains the good features of the modern world compared with earlier and later illiberal regimes—the economic success of the modern world, its arts and sciences, its kindness, its toleration, its inclusiveness, and especially its massive liberation of more and more people from violent hierarchies ancient and modern. Its enemies claim that it also explains alleged evils, such as the reduction of everything to money or the loss of community or the calamity of immigration by non-Christians. But they are mistaken.”

Liberalism and Democracy

Free Thoughts Podcast, 8 November 2019.

McCloskey talks about Why Liberalism Works with Aaron Ross Powell and Trevor Burrus.

“Liberalism is the theory that there should be no masters. No husbands over wives, no masters over slaves, no politicians over citizens. It’s egalitarian. Adam Smith speaks of the liberal plan of equality, liberty and justice, by which he meant social equality, economic liberty and legal justice. And the key feature of democracy is that everyone can vote. ... This is the real joined-at-the-hip connection between liberalism in the one end and democracy in the other: that the equal right to vote is a message of dignity, a message of equality.”

Consistent with True Religion

DeirdreMcCloskey.org, 24 October 2019.

McCloskey replies, with a brief letter, to recent use of her gender change as a way to attack her liberalism.

“God, as this no doubt terribly confused Episcopalian (‘catholic lite’) believes, wants humans to be free. Sin, virtue, and salvation make no sense if we are God’s pets in Eden, unable to choose. True liberalism, like science, is perfectly consistent with true religion. So is changing gender.”

Out of Touch

DeirdreMcCloskey.org, 19 October 2019.

McCloskey criticizes attempts to “imitate in economics what is called in medicine the ‘gold standard’ of randomized trials,” such as those cited by the committee that awarded the 2019 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics to Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer.

“The economists, like the medical researchers, seem to have lost touch with their proper role. They are not ethically assigned to master our lives. The mastering assignment is what they assume when they focus on ‘policy,’ understood as tricking or bribing or coercing people to do what’s best. It sounds fine, until you realize that it is what your mother did to you when you were 2 years old, and had properly stopped doing to you by the time you were 21. The field experimenters scorn adult liberty. ”

Why Liberalism Works

Yale University Press (2019)

McCloskey’s new collection Why Liberalism Works: How True Liberal Values Produce a Freer, More Equal, Prosperous World for All will be published October 15 by Yale University Press. The table of contents and the preface are available now.

“From the Philippines to the Russian Federation, from Hungary to the United States, liberalism has been assaulted recently by brutal, scare-mongering populists. A worry. Yet for a century and a half the relevance of liberalism to the good society has been denied in a longer, steadier challenge, by gentle or not-so-gentle progressives and conservatives. Time to speak up.”

Socialism for the Young at Heart

National Review, May 2019.

“When an adolescent in a free society discovers that there are poor people, her generous impulse is to bring everyone into a family of 330 million members,” writes McCloskey in a National Review symposium.

“People come in adolescence to hate the bourgeoisie or to detest free markets or to believe passionately in the welfare and regulatory state. It becomes part of a cherished identity, a faith hard to change. ... [But] the romantic ideals of socialism, so appealing to youth, are crazy-inconsistent, as [Leszek] Kolakowski showed in his history of European socialism. They promise a freedom from work that nonetheless makes us rich, a central plan without tyranny, and individual liberties strictly subordinated to a general will.”

Lessons from the War on Poverty

The Politic (Yale Univ.), 10 February 2019.

“What lessons can we take away from the War on Poverty?” McCloskey answers this and many more questions in an interview with a Yale University student publication.

“The War on Poverty was fine, and anyway politically necessary. ... But even since the 1960s the main improvement of the poor has come through innovation, itself mostly private and profitable. Better medicine. Better cars. Better housing. And the notion that massive government is justified by its support of the poor runs up against the so-called ‘median voter theorem.’ The 51st percentile decides elections. Such a voter is from the middle class. She votes herself farm subsidies, tax relief, and jobs bossing the poor.”

Happiness and Competitiveness

La República, 31 January 2019.

In an interview for Colombian publication La República (available here in English), McCloskey is asked to explain why that country is ranked highly in ‘happiness’ but low in ‘competitiveness.’

“Man does live by bread, or even excellent coffee, alone! I think the ‘happiness’ measures are idiotic, and say more about the social conventions in a particular country about complaining than anything else. ‘Competitiveness’ is not a word that a serious economist ever uses... It’s business-school talk, and is meaningless. Any country has a comparative advantage, regardless of income, and the patterns of trade are determined by it, not by what economists call ‘absolute’ advantage (that is, how productive you are). If absolute advantage, ‘competitiveness,’ causes trade, everyone not as productive as, say, the U.S. or Japan should sit down and do nothing at all, yes? If James Rodríguez is the best player on the football pitch, have the rest of the team sit down and do nothing, right? Not right.”

Speech Runs the Economy

Journal of Law & Liberty, forthcoming 2019.

Persuasive work now accounts for 30 percent of the economy. What does that mean? McCloskey explains, and contrasts the past of such work with its present and future, in a recent lecture.

“On balance the sweet-talking share of labor income was probably smaller before the Great Enrichment raised real income 1800 to the present by its astounding 3,000 percent. A manager did not have to be a...teacher. He or she could simply be a tyrant. Commanding Lieutenant (not yet Captain) William Bligh of the Bounty is supposed to have been a case in point, “that Bounty bastard,” as the sailors later called him in extenuation of their mutiny. The captain even of a merchantman, still more of one of His Majesty’s warships, expected instant obedience, necessary when rounding the Horn in a force-9 gale. The monastic Rule of Benedict required immediate, pride-fighting obedience. Occupations that depended on sweet talk were fewer in olden days. In future days they will be more and more numerous.”

An Exhilarating Story

Claremont Review, forthcoming 2019.

“It’s good to have a cheerful economic history of the United States,” writes McCloskey of Alan Greenspan and Adrian Wooldridge’s Capitalism in America: A History, even if the book’s cheer “occasionally grates.”

“Some of the most original portions of the book are those on monetary affairs... They give a capsule version of their theory of the business cycle: ‘People will always accumulate too much risk. Innovators will always dance with danger.’ Spot on. The business cycle, as against an earlier war-and-famine non-cycle, starts in the very late 18th century. Why is that? Answer: because an enriching people with diverse portfolios will want to accumulate more risk; and because innovators will dance with the risk if liberalism allows them to have a go, as increasingly after 1800 it massively did. Since then we have seen over forty ups and downs of irrational exuberance (as one might put it) followed by excessive pessimism, albeit with the subsequent up always higher than the last one. Up, up, up is not merely irrational cheer on the part of Greenspan and Wooldridge.”

Courage to Live

BBC Mundo, January 2019.

Irene Hernandez Velasco asks McCloskey, in a new interview: “Did you need an enormous amount of courage to decide, in 1995 when you were 53 years old, to become a woman? Which advice would you give to a person that faces the same situation?”

“You and I and everyone else needs courage to live. The mother who gets up every morning to help her severely handicapped son has more courage than most soldiers. The man who works three jobs to give his children a better life is a saint of courage. People think that gender change requires massive courage because they wouldn’t want to do it—like jumping out a plane without a parachute! My advice is to take advantage of a free society in which you can make such a choice—I do not recommend the parachute one—and then get on with your life.”

How Growth Happens

DeirdreMcCloskey.org, November 2018.

McCloskey has drafted a paper “summarizing the core economics and economic history from The Bourgeois Era trilogy, with some further thoughts,” for an audience of economists.

“What matters is human creativity liberated by liberalism. Innovism, not tricky proposals for utilitarian nudging, should be the focus of economics. Economics should become ‘humanomics,’ that is, economics with the philosophy, history, literature left in. No one would deny that having a free artistic or scientific community is good for us. Yet then they will deny the same in the economy. They think, as we Ivy League economists did in the 1960s, that ‘fine tuning’ is all the economy needs, and that expert economists from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton can provide it. The danger is a contempt for the difficulty of creativity in business, or for that matter in individual life.”

Libertarian Atheists

Reason, October 2018.

Why are libertarians commonly atheists? McCloskey avers that “the independent-minded child that denies at age 19 both left or right is also likely to have already denied the silly stuff his parents say about God to him at age 14.”

“That’s my preachment to my atheist-libertarian friends. ‘Dears,’ I say pleadingly, ‘do you really want to rest at arguments, commitments, ways of life that seemed sooooo cool to a 10- or 14- year old boy?’ (The girls, I find, are less dogmatic.) ‘Have you read a serious book about religion at age 30 or 50?’ They reply, ‘No, why would I do that? I already know it’s rubbish. I decided it was at 19 or 14 or 10.’”

The Father of Economics

Wall Street Journal, 8 September 2018.

For the Wall Street Journal, McCloskey reviews Jesse Norman’s Adam Smith: The Father of Economics (available here, .pdf).

“Mr. Norman’s canny judgments about the political history of the realm nowadays and in the 18th century might be expected in a politician and a man of varied practical experience. But he combines canniness with strict historical accuracy, philosophical depth and, episodically, economic sense.”

Empty Economic Boxes Revisited

History of Economic Ideas, 2018.

“The trouble we economists have had...after 1848 is that seldom has an alleged imperfection in market-tested betterment been subject to a measurement showing that the imperfection is important enough to abandon the approximations of supply and demand,” writes McCloskey in a new paper, “The Two Movements in Economic Thought, 1700–2000: Empty Economic Boxes Revisited.”

“The imperfections might, that is, to use an image of the economic historian and student of Marshall, John H. Clapham, in 1922, turn out to be ‘empty economic boxes.’ We don’t know because we have not measured. Most scientific justification depends on measurement. ... From the point of view of the sciences depending on measurement, such as geology or history, the course of economic science since 1848 looks strange indeed.”

Why We Need to Admire Entrepreneurs

Peace Love Liberty, Autumn 2018.

“Only if people approve of other people making profit from commercially tested betterment can we have free and rich societies,” says McCloskey in an interview with a Viennese magazine, where the interview is translated into German (on page 6).

“If people are angry and envious about entrepreneurs, we get socialism in one form or another. … In socialism we have fixers, judges, lobbyists, politicians, rent seekers. In a free society we have producers. The one is about zero sum, the other about positive.”

A July Fourth Manifesto

Humane True Liberalism, forthcoming 2019.

For your Independence Day reading needs, McCloskey offers a “Manifesto for a Humane True Libertarianism.”

“The pioneering management theorist of the 1920s, Mary Parker Follett, defined democracy not merely as majority voting—and then after the voting a bit of pushing the losers around—but as the true-liberal program of discovering, in her coinage, ‘win-win.’ Mill and Tocqueville would have agreed. It’s the best version of being a liberal, inclusive, democratic, and pluralistic human, such as has been the best theoretical ideal of an American since 1776.”

Is Facebook a Problem?

Institute of Art and Ideas, 11 April 2018.

“No, not especially,” writes McCloskey. “What should we do about it? Nothing.”

“It is indeed a problem when a company, or the state, fools people by telling them they are being taken care of when they are not. Free exchange among informed adults benefits both sides, and practically everyone else. But if the exchange is fraudulent, it does not. ‘Not to worry,’ says Facebook, ‘We have your privacy for social chitchat in mind, and would never abuse it.’ ‘Not to worry,’ says the state, ‘We have your entire privacy, income, safety, right to vote, education, health, legal justice, protection from knife attacks, and freedom in mind, and would never abuse them.’ In Facebook’s case, if the fooling becomes egregious, and is publicized through a free press, or private suits before a court, and if Facebook is not protected by the state in a cozy monopoly, the buyer of chitchat goes to a competitor, or ceases chitchatting.”

A History of Ordo-Liberalism

Literary Review, March 2018.

Quinn Slobodian’s Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism is fascinating and scholarly, writes McCloskey in a review.

“Slobodian traces ordo-liberalism, the core of international neo-liberalism, back to the shock that World War I delivered to liberal capitalism. Continental liberalism, at first in a much-reduced Austria and then especially in Geneva and beyond, Slobodian shows, began to argue for institutions ‘protecting capitalism on a global scale.’ ... Globalism, led by what Slobodian calls the Geneva School, mainly German speaking, sought to tame national populism in all its forms, from Lenin to Perón to Chávez to Trump.”

P. T. Bauer’s Cultural Pessimism

DeirdreMcCloskey.org, March 2018.

The development economist P. T. Bauer courageously advocated for economic liberalism when it was out of fashion in the 1950s and 1960s. Yet Bauer was similar to other economists of his day, writes McCloskey in a conference paper, in that he—sometimes—was unduly pessimistic about the prospects for economic growth in places where culture was perceived to be a barrier.

“No one would deny that deep ignorance as much as charming customs can obstruct the choices that Bauer put in the midst of his account of growth. But ignorance and custom are not always permanent. They can change, sometimes with startling speed, in which case the conditions that Bauer thought so sluggish can become suddenly favorable. And choice—the profit motive that even a mere consumer exercises when she is free—can overwhelm the ignorance and custom.”

Networks and Meaning

Wall Street Journal, 12 January 2018.

Niall Ferguson’s The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook is “brilliant,” says McCloskey in a review (also available here), though it sometimes neglects matters of meaning and ethics.

“Networks are easily diagramed, and armies of sociologists do diagram them. But after diagraming the networks, horizontal or vertical, what have we learned? Mr. Ferguson notes that the official hierarchy in Japan has put the Emperor of the Chrysanthemum Throne at the top for more than 1,000 years. But the continuity in the vertical network diagram has by no means meant that the emperor has always been the boss. ... A ‘connectography’ sounds delightful and profound but does not tell how markets and especially human innovation work, which is with meaning.”

Against ‘Capitalism’

Reason, January 2018.

“The word is a Marxist coinage,” writes McCloskey, and it represents “a scientific mistake.”

“Romans and Chinese and human beings back to the caves have always accumulated capital, abstaining from consumption to get it. What made us rich were new ideas for investing it, not the investments themselves, necessary though they were. ... Liberating ordinary people inspired them to extraordinary ideas, which in turn redirected the capital, the labor, the liquid water, and all the other necessaries.”

A Crisis of Democracy

ASSA Meeting, 6 January 2018.

"The high rate of youth unemployment in many places nowadays, and its increase since earlier times, signals bad economic air," says McCloskey in a new conference paper (available here on DeirdreMcCloskey.org).

“In France the extravagant job protections for people who already have jobs means that oldsters cling desperately to the wrong job and youngsters haven’t got a shot at permanent employment. On the West Side of Chicago the war on drugs combined with the minimum wage combined with protective regulations of businesses combined with licensing requirements for 1,000 occupations nationwide combined with zoning preventing opening of businesses large and small combined with building codes in favor of union plumbers and electricians make for no jobs for young people, and frozen jobs for old people.”

Letter to a Young Scholar

DeirdreMcCloskey.org, December 2017.

McCloskey requests that a would-be critic of her Bourgeois Era trilogy engage competently with it.

“The main point of all three books is that the surrounding social approval for bourgeois activity is what mainly mattered. ... We need to understand, really understand, what our colleagues are claiming if we are going to ‘test’ them. I welcome tests. If I am wrong, I will be sad but nonetheless glad that at least we know one thing better than we once did. That way lies scientific progress. But slap-dash ‘tests’ that miss the point do not advance science. They make it go in circles.”

A Changing Atmosphere

The Tiger (Clemson U.), 23 October 2017.

McCloskey finds “astonishing” the changes over the last few years in Americans’ attitudes toward the LGBT community, she tells the Clemson University Tiger:

“Societies are complicated, and always changing. In most places, middle-school kids still are homo- and transphobes, in their confused way, calling people ‘gay’ for example without knowing what the word means to adults. But nowadays even many high schools have LGBTQ clubs, and the football team doesn’t seem to object. At universities, of course, it’s not an issue at all, even in the South. The ‘religious’ objection to toleration, by the way, does not as it claims rely on Biblical texts. The texts are few and ambiguous. Anyway a few verses earlier a text would condemn most U.S. teenagers to stoning, because they talk back to their elders. And the message of our Lord and Savior is love, not hate.”

Sweet Talk and Social Media

AEIdeas, 13 October 2017.

In "A Conversation with Deirdre McCloskey," James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute asks about the struggle to communicate important ideas:

Pethokoukis: “It’s been documented that people aren’t really open to being challenged. They go on Facebook to just reaffirm whatever that existing bias is, and when it is challenged they feel very upset by that because they’re just not used to that kind of engagement. Is that a concern? That people will just never be exposed to your sweet talk?”
McCloskey: “It’s a concern, but it’s always been a concern. In a traditional society in the 17th century, people were enclosed in the same way. They were all Congregationalists, or Church of England, or all Catholics, and they wouldn’t speak to other people, and got very angry when those people acted in ways they didn’t like. So there isn’t anything new about how hard it is to change ideas.”

Rich and Free

Bourgeois Dignity (Polish ed.), 2018.

Capital was not the cause of the Great Enrichment, McCloskey notes in her preface to the forthcoming Polish-language edition of Bourgeois Dignity.

“Pouring capital into an economy without ideas results in masses of stupid dams and pointless factories. Look at Ghana. Look at pre-1989 Poland. Pouring ideas, if they pass the test of profit in voluntary exchange, finds the capital readily enough, and then enriches us all. Look at China and India, Spain and Poland.”

The Other Threat to Liberty

Right-Wing Collectivism by Jeffrey Tucker, 2017.

McCloskey has written a preface for Right-Wing Collectivism: The Other Threat to Liberty, a forthcoming book by Jeffrey Tucker (draft available on DeirdreMcCloskey.org).

“In elegant prose and deep history Tucker tells the story of how the twin anti-liberal, fathered c. 1820 by Gottfried Hegel, parted company. Prussia and Russia, you might say. Anything but England. The twin on the right, from Carlyle and recently Breitbart News, elevated the state with nationalism. The twin on the left, from Marx and recently MSNBC, elevated the state with socialism. Either way, the state, with its monopoly of violence, was elevated. English liberalism—which meanwhile gave us our liberties and then our riches—elevated instead the individual people and their voluntary agreements.”

Bookkeeping Was Not Crucial

DeirdreMcCloskey.org, September 2017.

McCloskey writes to Gregory Waymire, arguing that bookkeeping practices were not of great importance in European enrichment.

“I realize you think that it suffices to establish the mere existence of an innovation that seems necessary, looked at from present routines. But the method is mistaken. For one thing, as a matter of logic a necessary X does not imply a sufficient X. For another thing, you have not shown that your favored X is quantitatively important. And for still another thing, the economic history does not support any of the usual X's as necessary. As Alexander Gerschenkron long ago reminded us, economics, and therefore economic history, is about substitutes, not necessities, flexibilities, not fixed coefficients. Joint sufficiency is what we seek.”

Private Monopoly Is Not the Problem

Institute of Art and Ideas News, August 2017.

McCloskey has written a contribution to a forum on regulation of large companies or monopolies, for the Institute of Art and Ideas (draft available here on DeirdreMcCloskey.org).

“We need to think of monopolies not in terms of the present share of a company in some defined market but in terms of the potential for entry by competitors, in the defined market or in entirely different markets. The monopoly of first-class mail was competed into the dust by the entry of an entirely different industry, email.”

The Myth of Technological Unemployment

Reason, August/September 2017.

"Otherwise sensible folk are, for some reason, terrified by robots." McCloskey reminds the readers of Reason magazine that advancing technology will not lead to mass unemployment.

"Consider the historical record: If the nightmare of technological unemployment were true, it would already have happened, repeatedly and massively. In 1800, four out of five Americans worked on farms. Now one in 50 do, but the advent of mechanical harvesting and hybrid corn did not disemploy the other 78 percent. In 1910, one out of 20 of the American workforce was on the railways. In the late 1940s, 350,000 manual telephone operators worked for AT&T alone. In the 1950s, elevator operators by the hundreds of thousands lost their jobs to passengers pushing buttons. Typists have vanished from offices. But if blacksmiths unemployed by cars or TV repairmen unemployed by printed circuits never got another job, unemployment would not be 5 percent, or 10 percent in a bad year. It would be 50 percent and climbing."

Her Many Transgressions

Institute for New Economic Thinking, 28 June 2017.

McCloskey "discusses her career, critiques of economics, and offers advice for young economists" for the Institute of New Economic Thinking's "Rebels and Masters" interview series. INET has a 16-page complete transcript of the interview and a playlist of 18 video clips.

“People come to their scientific convictions in all kinds of ways, arguments from authority. ‘Milton Friedman told me so, therefore I believe it,’ say. Or arguments from analogy, which is a very powerful scientific tool. From metaphors. Stories. The story of economic development as a tale in which the expert economist comes from the World Bank and helps the poor people become rich. And tales our mothers told us. Diagrams. Films. Fiction. Most people think they understand what was happening in the early Industrial Revolution to poor people. How do they know this? Because they’ve read Hard Times by Charles Dickens so they think this guy who knew nothing about industrialization is a good guide to economic history. It’s not that these are just fallacies. It’s how humans honestly and seriously persuade. ... So in order to understand science, and this is a point that sociologists of science understand very well, you’ve got to get beyond the official cover story.”

How (Not) to Get Somewhere

Economic Affairs, May 2017.

McCloskey replies to Eric Jones's review for Economic Affairs of the Bourgeois Era trilogy.

“‘She comes out against a preference for parsimony or Occam's Razor.’ No, not really. The parsimony of the stunning size of the Great Enrichment is indeed a knock-down argument against all manner of Samuelsonian or Marxist or neo-institutionalist accounts, an argument which I employ with gusto. It is the main point of Bourgeois Dignity, and is to be sure a parsimonious, quantitative, positivist point. But I do not ignore qualitative evidence, either. To that extent, I avoid the fatal cut that so many male economists have given themselves while shaving with Occam's dangerously straight razor.”

Neo-Institutionalism Is Not Yet a Scientific Success

27 February 2017.

McCloskey has drafted a reply, available here on DeirdreMcCloskey.org, to Barry Weingast's Scandinavian Economic History Review article on the causes of the Great Enrichment.

Nationalism and Socialism Are Very Bad Ideas

Reason, February 2017.

But liberalism is a good idea, writes McCloskey in an essay for Reason.

“What to do? Revive liberalism, as the astonishing successes of China and India have. Take back the word from our friends on the American left. They can keep progressive, if they don't mind being associated with the Progressive movement of the early 20th century, and its eugenic enthusiasms for forced sterilization and for using the minimum wage to drive immigrants, blacks, and women out of the labor force. And we should persuade our friends on the right to stop using the l word to attack people who do not belong to the country club.”

Growth, Not Forced Equality, Saves the Poor

New York Times, 26 December 2016.

In a New York Times op-ed ("the most important article of 2016"?), McCloskey urges a focus on economic growth rather than on forced redistribution, writing that "equality beyond the basics in consumption and in political rights isn’t possible in a specialized and dynamic economy."

Not Institutions, But Ethics and Religion

Faith & Economics, 2017 (forthcoming).

McCloskey replies to criticisms of Bourgeois Equality made by Robert Whaples, Peter J. Hill, Nancy Ruth Fox, Paul Oslington, and Peter Boettke and Rosolino Candela, in a symposium to appear in the journal Faith & Economics (draft available here on DeirdreMcCloskey.org).

“I am a sisterly Christian real liberal. But we need in Christian economic ethics to get beyond a naive optimism about governmental intervention, a misunderstanding of the cooperative character of a market society, a weighting of one human soul against another in money, a quantitative misunderstanding of the size of charity, an ignoring of the raising up of the wretched of the earth by economic growth, and much of the rest of [Catholic Social Thought].”

The attractions of socialism

Interview by G. Canlorbe (forthcoming).

In an interview by Grégoire Canlorbe (possibly to appear in a future issue of Man and the Economy), McCloskey muses on the appeal of socialist ideas.

“I myself was a long time ago a mild-mannered Marxist. I think the attractions of socialism arise from our experience as children in a loving family, in which income falls mysteriously from Dad, and Mom is the central planner. Unless we are raised on a farm or in a small business, we get no early instruction in the charms, and terrors, of voluntary exchange. We think commands rule the economy, the way commands do rule the family or firm inside—though the child does not realize that prices in markets outside rule all. It is shocking to a child of the bourgeoisie such as Marx and Engels and Lenin, to find that he or she cannot command the rich to relieve poverty. It does not occur to the child that voluntary exchange, and having a go under a liberal ethic, are what has in fact relieved poverty. The relief has not come out of redistribution by state violence from the rich to the poor.”

On A Culture of Growth

Prospect Magazine, October 2016.

McCloskey praises Joel Mokyr's new, "brilliant book" on the intellectual history of the modern economy.

"Mokyr takes seriously the job of making an argument. For example, his glittering chapters late in the book on Chinese history make the point that we need to understand China, which in 1500 led the world, in order to understand the peculiarity of northwestern Europe, 1500 to 1800, which came to lead it. The book is not beach reading. But you will finish it impressively learned about how we got to where we are in the modern world."

McCloskey to visit Chile

Santiago, La Tercera, Pulso, and El Libero, September 2016.

In advance of Deirdre McCloskey's October visit to Chile, she has given several press interviews, including ones to the publications Santiago, La Tercera, Pulso, and El Libero. Here on DeirdreMcCloskey.org is the English text of the interviews conducted by Patricio Tapia for Santiago, Mauricio Rodriguez for La Tercera, and Francisca Guerrero for Pulso.

"We have to make the choice to resist."

Magyar Narancs, September 2016.

In an interview with the Budapest weekly Magyar Narancs (available in English here on DeirdreMcCloskey.org), McCloskey remarks on religion and liberalism, among other topics.

"Religion and liberalism can be perfectly consistent, just as religion and science can. God wants us to have free will, and so she puts us in a world in which real choices between good and evil exist, in which F = ma and earthquakes happen and, in particular, tyrants prosper. We are not God's pets in a choiceless Eden. If we do not want to be the tyrant's pets, a world in which Jobbik and Fidesz run our lives, we have to make the choice to resist."

Not Saving or Psychology, or Science, but a New Liberalism

Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, Autumn 2016.

McCloskey replies to five reviews of her Bourgeois Equality, by Gerald Gaus, Jack Goldstone, Jennifer Baker, Sonja Amadae, and Joel Mokyr, in a symposium for the Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics.

If We Keep Our Ethical Wits...

Independent Review, Winter 2016.

We can see over into a Great Enrichment, says McCloskey in a new paper coauthored with Art Carden for the Independent Review.

"Rest easy if the person on the plane next to you is reading on her Kindle The Art of War—or even The Art of the Deal—in order to become a better manager in a company that specializes in pine straw installation. Lose sleep only if she is reading even these books in order to better lead a revolution against the commercial social order or to make actual, non-metaphorical war, in a program of populism of the left or right."

The Long View on Brexit

Istituto Bruno Leoni, 7 July 2016.

McCloskey ponders the consequences of the Brexit for liberalism, nationalism, and socialism, in an essay for the blog of the Istituto Bruno Leoni (also available in italiano).

Guaranteed income? Yes.

Orlando Sentinel, 28 June 2016.

McCloskey advances the case for a minimum income policy in a column for the Orlando Sentinel.

"When President Lyndon B. Johnson launched the War on Poverty, The New Yorker magazine ran a cartoon showing a bank truck drawn up to the curb with the guards handing out money from bags. One of the bystanders said to another, 'Well, finally the War on Poverty has gotten under way!' That's right. The poor may have social and psychological and even ethical problems about work and consumption, which we should help them solve, if they want to. On the other hand, so do the rich—he who is without sin, cast the first stone."

"Designed to screw low-wage workers"

Reason, July 2016.

McCloskey discusses Thomas Leonard's research into the history of minimum-wage laws, in a book review for Reason magazine.

"Leonard shows in detail that the minimum wage arose in the early 20th century as a Progressive policy designed to screw low-wage workers. Designed. And unlike many other laws 'designed' to achieve a result (for example, protective tariffs designed to enrich America), the minimum wage achieved what it was after."

Business Is As Ethical As It Has Ever Been

Financial Times, 16 June 2016.

McCloskey assesses the state of business ethics in Britain and beyond, for the Financial Times.

"Businesspeople are no worse, and may be better, than in the 1950s. The present danger is from hostile opinion about businesspeople. ... It has fed, for example, a hostility to corporate 'monopolies' selling trainers and beer—which for some reason frighten people more than actual monopolies exercised by MI6 or the Inland Revenue."

Ideas Transformed the World

Essays adapted from Bourgeois Equality, May 2016.

The Wall Street Journal and Reason magazine are this month featuring essays adapted by McCloskey from her new book, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World.

"Free Thoughts" on the Bourgeois Era

Libertarianism.org, 27 May 2016.

Aaron Ross Powell and Trevor Burrus, hosts of the Libertarianism.org podcast series Free Thoughts, speak with McCloskey on the Bourgeois Era trilogy.

Why I Changed My Mind

BBC Radio 4, 11 May 2016.

Dominic Lawson, for the BBC, asks McCloskey why her views on economics and politics, her faith, and her gender have changed over the course of her life.

The Oxford Handbook of Professional Economic Ethics

Oxford University Press (2016)

The Oxford Handbook of Professional Economic Ethics, co-edited by George DeMartino and Deirdre McCloskey, is now available. It explores a wide range of questions related to the nature of ethical economic practice. The Handbook brings together new contributions of leading economists, professional ethicists, and others, all of whom probe here what it means to be an ethical economist, and what is required of economics to be a responsible profession. The Handbook widens substantially the terrain of economic ethics by examining the ethical entailments of academic and applied economic practice.

"Nothing Interrelates Them."

In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, 1 May 2016.

In a new interview, Scott Douglas Jacobsen asks McCloskey about her self-description as "a literary, quantitative, postmodern, free-market, progressive-Episcopalian, Midwestern woman from Boston who was once a man."

"What interrelates these philosophies and positions?"
"Nothing interrelates them. That is the serious joke in my self-descriptions. Anyone who tries to keep philosophical consistency through her life is going be dominated necessarily by her immature plan for philosophy—whatever it was at age 14. It's like the many intelligent people who decide in their wisdom at age 14 to be courageous, independent-thinking atheists (following slavishly in this most of the intelligent children in their cohort), and then never pause at age 30 or 60 to reexamine the 14-year old's life plan. It’s childish—though unhappily it characterizes many otherwise intelligent people."

How the Light Really Gets In

DeirdreMcCloskey.org, 28 April 2016.

McCloskey has prepared this talk (.pdf) to deliver during the upcoming HowTheLightGetsIn Festival in Wales.

"The English Leveller Richard Rumbold, facing the hangman in 1685, declared, 'I am sure there was no man born marked of God above another; for none comes into the world with a saddle on his back, neither any booted and spurred to ride him.' Few in the crowd gathered to mock him would have agreed. A century later, many advanced thinkers like Tom Paine or Mary Wollstonecraft, did. By 1985 virtually everyone did. And so the Great Enrichment came."

All the Socio-Political Virtues

American Philosophical Association meeting, 30 March 2016.

McCloskey interacts with the ideas of Thomas Hobbes, John Rawls, James Buchanan, and Martha Nussbaum (and more, of course) in a new paper (.pdf) for the American Philosophical Association Pacific Division annual meeting in San Francisco on March 30.

"We need direct ethical change, and that is to be achieved not by a Fifth Great Awakening but by the recovery of explicit and full ethical talk. Only that will protect the constitution, or result in wide capabilities, or give birth to a society of love."

The Economic Sky Will Not Fall

Prospect Magazine (London), March 2016.

McCloskey challenges "a gaggle of Tory/Liberal economists" over the prospects for future economic growth.

"In short, no limit to fast world or U.S. or European growth of per-person income is close at hand, no threat to ‘jobs,’ no cause for pessimism—not in your lifetime, or even that of your great-grandchildren."

Irish Poets, Learn Your Trade

Money in Law and Literature Conference, February 2016.

For a conference at the University of Chicago this month, McCloskey looks for law and economics in poetry.

"And indeed why would one expect to 'find economics, or law, in a literature'? What would be the point? It is: to lean against the premise in Irish poetry, or English and American poetry, or indeed in Mesopotamian poetry, Chinese poetry, Italian poetry, and it seems in every poetic tradition—I solicit exceptions to the rule—that law and the economy are not proper poetic subjects."

Bourgeois Equality, coming soon

University of Chicago Press, 2016.

The third and final book of McCloskey's Bourgeois Era trilogy will be published in April by University of Chicago Press.

A free seven-page summary of the trilogy, written by McCloskey, is available here on DeirdreMcCloskey.org—and in italiano from Istituto Bruno Leoni, and in het Nederlands from De Groene Amsterdammer.

The Great Enrichment

National Review, 19 November 2015.

"Time to rethink our materialist explanations of economies and histories," says McCloskey in an essay for National Review.

"...what mattered were two levels of ideas: the ideas for the betterments themselves (the electric motor, the airplane, the stock market), dreamed up in the heads of the new entrepreneurs drawn from the ranks of ordinary people; and the ideas in the society at large about such people and their betterments—in a word, liberalism, in all but the modern American sense. The market-tested betterment, the Great Enrichment, was itself caused by a Scottish Enlightenment version of equality, a new equality of legal rights and social dignity that made every Tom, Dick, and Harriet a potential innovator."

Been There, Done That

Chronicle of Higher Education, 18 October 2015.

On gender change, writes McCloskey in the Chronicle of Higher Education (also here, .pdf), "colleges have calmed down":

"The calming has mainly come, as Lincoln said in 1858, through public opinion, not laws: 'he [or she, dear] who molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions.'"

Bourgeois Equality for Conservatives

American Spectator, 15 October 2015.

McCloskey discusses the importance of social dignity for ordinary people in a new essay for the American Spectator.

"To confine honor to an elite, whether social superiors or social engineers, is to suppose that we already know who are hoi aristoi, the best suited to rule, and that the best already know how exactly we mere occupants are to be flogged or planned or nudged into submission. For our own good. It is the traditionalist’s error, yet also the progressive’s error, to suppose there is nothing to be discovered. As Harry Truman said, an expert is someone who doesn’t want to learn anything new, because then he wouldn’t be an expert."

Piketty and Europe

Wprost, August 2015.

Tomasz Wróblewski, of the Polish weekly Wprost, queries Deirdre McCloskey about inequality, Europe, and the work of Thomas Piketty (English translation, .pdf).

"People say that Sweden is 'socialist.' Poles know that this is silly, having experienced real socialism until 1989, and during communism going over to Sweden to make money in a capitalist way. 'Socialist' Sweden even nowadays is bourgeois and 'capitalist,' and not much less so than the United States. … To rise into the top rank of rich countries, Poland needs to change its ideology."

"I’m also an English professor"

Forbes Opinion, 25 May 2015.

McCloskey talks to Jerry Bowyer about how her Bourgeois Era trilogy connects various fields of inquiry (listen to part one and part two).

"What I love about this project is in my old age, or as we say, now, my late-middle age, I found a project that I think uses my skills; whatever they are, it uses them. So I’m an economist, so I do quantitative work, and I get the numbers right. But I’m also an English professor, and so I use theater and plays, and poems, and so on to illustrate those points. So it’s not my life’s work; it’s my end-life’s work, which I find very pleasant, because so often people’s careers end with a whimper, and mine is ending with a bang, which I like a lot."

How to stay "Iowa calm"

Des Moines Register, 5 May 2015.

Following Bruce Jenner's coming out, McCloskey offers a reminiscence and some reflections on calmness in the Des Moines Register, and she advises readers to watch Diane Sawyer's interview with Jenner.

"Capitalism has always been with us, since the caves."

Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Spring 2015.

In an essay taken from the manuscript of her forthcoming Bourgeois Equality, McCloskey criticizes the common reliance by economic theorists on outdated narratives of the Industrial Revolution and the succeeding Great Enrichment.

"Acemoglu and Robinson and the rest are accepting a leftish story of economic history proposed in 1848 or 1882 by brilliant amateurs, before the professionalization of scientific history, then repeated by Fabians at the hopeful height of the socialist idea, and then elaborated by a generation of (admittedly first-rate, if mistaken) Marxian historians, before thoroughgoing socialism had been tried and had failed, and before much of the scientific work had been done about the actual history—before it was realized, for instance, that other industrial revolutions had occurred in, say, Islamic Spain or Song China…"

Explaining the Great Enrichment

Scandinavian Economic History Review, spring 2016.

McCloskey's session paper for the Allied Social Science Associations annual meeting seeks to provide "A Humanistic and Social Scientific Account" of "the largest social and economic change since the invention of agriculture."

"The reward from allowing ordinary people to have a go, the rise at first in northwestern Europe and then worldwide of economic liberty and social dignity, eroding ancient hierarchy and evading modern regulation, has been anything from 2,900 to 9,900 percent. Previous ‘efflorescences,’ as the historical sociologist Jack Goldstone calls them, such as the glory of Greece or the boom of Song China, and indeed the Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth century in Britain, resulted perhaps in doublings of real income per person—100 percent, as against fully 2,900 percent since 1800."

The Poetry of Helen McCloskey

DeirdreMcCloskey.org, January 2016.

Helen McCloskey's poetry collection The Curve of Nature is now available for download here (.pdf).

The Humanities Are Scientific

Journal of Institutional Economics, forthcoming.

In a forthcoming paper for the Journal of Institutional Economics, Deirdre McCloskey replies to defenses of neo-institutionalism—​by Avner Greif and Joel Mokyr (also forthcoming), Richard Langlois, Robert Lawson, and Guido Tabellini—made in response to McCloskey's earlier critique.

Deirdre McCloskey on writing to persuade

Shorewalker On Reports, 10 July 2023.

In this episode of Shorewalker On Reports, we’re hearing from a world-renowned thinker – Professor Deirdre McCloskey. Professor McCloskey thinks and writes about economics, English, communication, philosophy, history and classics. Does that seems a broad range? Try this: she’s been a professor in each of those six disciplines, at universities in the United States and The Netherlands. She’s also a Distinguished Scholar at the Cato Institute, which is where she was when we had this conversation.

Debate on Sex, Gender, & Identity

Forbidden Courses, 3 March 2023.

McCloskey debated philosopher Kathleen Stock at the first public debate hosted by UATX on issues of sex, gender, and identity. Stock stated:

“I've never been able to argue on a platform with a trans person who strongly disagrees with me.”

How Economists Once Were

The Governance Podcast, 10 June 2022.

McCloskey talks about the themes of her recent book Bettering Humanomics with Mark Pennington of King’s College London.

“Economists were once well-read intellectuals. And now they’re not. They’re specialists. And they feel perfectly justified in not reading any books. Your office is filled with books. And they’re not just about economics, they’re about politics in history, ethics, and various other things with philosophy. That’s how economists once were. And then, really, since the war, they have become extremely narrow. They’ve made this crazy decision that ethics has nothing to do with economics, which is insane. The blessed Adam Smith, au contraire, believed very strongly that the economy and ethics work together. So that’s why I call it a new and old way of thinking about economics.”

Economic Development and Love

The QoG Podcast, 7 June 2022.

McCloskey tells Victor Lapuente, on a podcast from the Quality of Government Institute at the University of Gothenburg, that economic development depends on ideas, values, and virtues.

How Boring People Made Us Rich

Schweizer Monat, April 2022.

“Living together gently and justly is magnificent and humane,” writes McCloskey in a new essay for Schweizer Monat. “It has in the past two centuries made us in industrialized nations very, very rich and at least a little more virtuous.”

“We are richer in food and housing and literacy and length of life, real income per person has increased by factors of 10 or 30 or 50, we also ended slavery and the subjection of women, we care about the far Uighurs and no longer beat our horses. We should stop being ashamed of being so very bourgeois, stop being entranced by dreams of boyish military heroism and girlish spiritual heroism. The real heroism of real adults shows in their daily struggles, not in the gun fights and car chases that entice the teenage boys into seats at the cinema, bringing along the teenage girls. There’s little wrong with being adult and responsible and middle class, spending one’s life providing for others in the bourse and in the home. ”

Stumbling Towards the Truth

Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology, 2022

In a commentary on an essay by Geoffrey Hodgson, McCloskey counsels economists to avoid “Three Scientific Faults in Some Neo-Institutionalism.”

“The way to produce still another degenerative research programme is to never face up to ethics, never avoid tautology, never really test quantitatively, or often enough qualitatively. Many smooth careers will thereby been assured. You will offend no one. But science will not progress.”

The Origins of Human Progress

Cato Events, 5 November 2021.

What explains the explosion in growth and prosperity that humanity has experienced in the past couple centuries? In conversation with Stephen Haber and Charles Calomiris, McCloskey describes the key role of liberal ideas, ideology, and ethics in producing the conditions for human flourishing.

Institutions Are Not Fundamental

DeirdreMcCloskey.org, October 2021.

“Institutions matter” among the causes of the modern world, “but not as much as neo-institutionalists believe,” avers McCloskey in a new conference paper.

“Neo-institutionalism with its focus on necessary causes and therefore on failures cannot explain the modern world, in its ever-widening number nowadays of parts succeeding… You can only explain why nations such as Britain and Japan and Botswana succeed, that is, by discerning in a proper economic science the strongly sufficient as against the weakly necessary origins of our startling modern prosperity.”

How the World Got Rich

24 June 2021.

McCloskey engages with Yaron Brook on the Great Enrichment.

A History of Her Economic Opinions

Journal of Contextual Economics, forthcoming.

“I have changed my mind about economics, and repeatedly,” writes McCloskey in a new autobiographical essay. “My colleagues who are puzzled or irritated or outraged by this history of changing one’s mind are entitled to an apologia.”

“Raised up at Harvard as a student in the 1960s to believe that only numbers matter, I gradually realized in the 1980s that words matter, too, at least for the science itself. And then in the 1990s I started to realize that words mattered also for the actual economy. Raised up in the 1970s as a young Chicago-School professor to believe that prudence understood as the prudent maximizing of utility suffices for economic science, I gradually realized in the 2000s that faith, hope, love, courage, temperance, and justice matter also, and not merely as entries in a prudential utility function as F, H, L, C, T, J. Then in the 2010s I realized that such a human science does suffice to explain liberalism and modern economic growth.”

The Tyranny of Outside Theory

Journal of Contextual Economics, 2021.

McCloskey reflects on “the unbridgeable gap between words and things” in a response to a comment by Martha Nussbaum on McCloskey's Crossing (forthcoming in the Journal of Contextual Economics).

“The modernist swerve on or about December 1910 was to retreat into the words themselves, or to 12 tones, or to colored shapes, or to mathematics, or to Theory, alone. They suffice, after all, to get tenure, or to publish a Workshop poem in The New Yorker, or a theorem in the Journal of Economic Theory. The modernist dogma in many social sciences is that we must forget about human meaning, and retreat into a positivistic behaviorism, insisting on looking at humans only from the outside, from Theory, as though they were ants. Yet we have, Martha points out, the sea itself to look at, and the person herself, and must not let Theory take up all the space.”

A Monument to Serious Scholarship

DeirdreMcCloskey.org, 31 January 2021.

“Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson’s splendid new book, The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty, is beautifully written, filled with interesting historical and economic and political matter,” says McCloskey in a new critical essay. “But no one can get everything exactly right.”

“If you are an economist, or an econowannabe in law or history or political science, and especially if you are a Samuelsonian or Marxist, you will appreciate the repeated assertion by Acemoglu and Robinson that material incentives, not ideas, run the historical show. ... What Acemoglu and Robinson and the other neo-institutionalists ignore is the human mind and its liberated creations. ”

MORE: McCloskey calls for “an ‘ideational,’ not institutional, economic history.”

A Version of Socialism

“What Happens Next” podcast, 10 January 2021.

“Industrial policy, to use a hot term that often gets people over-excited, is a version of socialism,” McCloskey avers in a podcast interview about The Myth of the Entrepreneurial State, her new book with Alberto Mingardi:

“I'm not claiming that my friends who are in favor of such policies are communists or something like that, but I am saying that under socialism, one puts political decisions ahead of economic decisions. And there are lots of cases where one should. If you're facing a plague, early in the plague, it's very desirable that the government take charge and stop the plague, if there's an invasion...or if there's a forest fire. There's no easy way of taking care of a large forest fire with market mechanisms. But for most of the things that we buy and sell, and including our own labor, it makes a lot more sense to use the information that we all have about what we like, what we're prepared to accept in the way of pay, what sort of careers we think we can do. That information is not in the heads of someone in Washington or in London, it's in the heads of ordinary people spread out over the economy. And it's been said, and I think it's exactly correct, that for most issues the best way of marshaling this information is through supply and demand through the marketplace.”

Abrahamic Theology and Liberal Ideology

Journal of Economics, Theology, and Religion, December 2020.

“There is an intimate, and perhaps desirable, connection between liberty of the human will under Abrahamic theology and the liberty of human action under liberal economic ideology,” writes McCloskey in a newly published journal article.

“Liberalism...is the adult system of thoroughgoing cooperation with strangers. The Good Samaritan’s one-on-one gift was glorious. Yet all the more is the one-on-many, or many-on-one, of modern innovism evoked by profit and craft and property. After all, no profit is achieved, and any craft is pointless, and any property fruitless, unless the seller’s product made out of them is advantageous to the others, in the opinion of the others—who then willingly give over some of the profit from their own selling of labor or craft or property. It is liberal innovism, mutual gain, a positive sum.”

Liberalism and Adultism

Draft for Marty, ed., The Handbook of Freedom, forthcoming 2021.

“Liberalism,” writes McCloskey in a new essay, “is the theory that a liberated person should become an adult, and does.”

“The ‘should’ part is a definition of human flourishing. Though we all need love, people do not flourish merely as beloved pets. We Christians are fond of calling ourselves children of God, and it is ultimately true. But God after Eden also wants us to be adults, not childish pets. Liberty is meaningless if we cannot choose to sin, and are mere robots of God. Self-rule is fundamental, called in theology ‘free will.’
     The ‘does’ part is political psychology. It works as a cause of adult behavior. Liberty understood as adult behavior encourages you to take responsibility for yourself. All the other political theories are by contrast deeply childish, and correspondingly power-mad.”

Silver Stake for the Entrepreneurial State

Svensk Tidskrift, 6 November; LiberiOltre, 30 October 2020.

Michele Boldrin grills McCloskey and Alberto Mingardi on their new book The Myth of the Entrepreneurial State.

MORE: “Better not centralize in Stockholm or Rome or Washington,” the authors warn.

IN ITALIANO: A translated excerpt of the book has been published in Il Foglio.

Hiding and Writing

DeirdreMcCloskey.org, August 2020.

McCloskey has been hiding out from the U.S.’s incompetently managed plague at her sister’s house in Bloomington, Indiana, helping take care of her 98-year old mother, but also getting an insane amount of writing done. She’s written a ton of journalism (mainly on the plague, of course: there are more writers about it than there are epidemiologists actually trying to stop it), a couple of scholarly pieces, and has written or seen into publication five books in the past five months:

  • [with Alberto Mingardi] The Illiberal Myth of the Entrepreneurial State. London: Adam Smith Institute and Great Barrington, MA: American Institute for Economic Research, forthcoming, late 2020 or early 2021. Draft submitted for copyediting June 2020.
  • Beyond Positivism, Behaviorism, and Neo-Institutionalism in Economics. University of Chicago Press. Final version submitted for copyediting July 2020. To be published fall 2021.
    “Humanomics requires broader theorizing and more serious empiricism. ‘Neo-institutionalism,’ like many other neo-behaviorist movements over the past few decades in economics, doesn’t fit the bill. Ethics beyond positivism is part of humanomics, too.”
  • Bettering Humanomics: A New, and Old, Approach to Economic Science. University of Chicago Press. Final version submitted for copy editing Funerary 2020. To be published spring 2021. Italian translation under negotiation, March 2020.
    “To get a better economic science we need ‘humanomics,’ economics with the humans left in. It pays off scientifically, for example in a killer app explaining the Great Enrichment.”
  • [with Art Carden] Leave Me Alone and I’ll Make You Rich: How the Bourgeois Deal Enriched the World. University of Chicago Press. Forthcoming October 2020. An accessible version for the general reader of The Bourgeois Era trilogy.
  • Historical Impromptus: Notes, Reviews, and Responses on the British Experience and the Great Enrichment. Great Barrington, MA: American Institute for Economic Research, March 2020.

Applying the Theory

University of Chicago, 19 May 2020.

McCloskey delivers a guest lecture to students at the University of Chicago on “The New Economic History at Chicago in the 1970s.”

The Immoral Equivalent of War

Le Grand Continent, May 2020.

“We will recover, of course,” declares McCloskey in a new essay, “and do not have to sacrifice our liberties forever to do so.”

“Tyrannies like China and the Russian Federation tried early on to get away with suppressing the truth, as is their nature, and so did their friend Trump. … Eventually China, as will Russia next month, reverted to comprehensive coercion, as tyrannies do, forever. But now even reasonably liberal democracies like the US and France have to coerce, ‘for the time being,’ they say. In other words, even we liberals believe that coercion is not all bad… Scuttling the French fleet at Toulon in 1942, bombing Belgrade in 1999, social distancing against covid 19 in 2020.”

Coercion and the Coronavirus

National Review, 2020 April 20.

“Coercion is not all bad, no more than preventing your two-year-old from running in front of a bus is bad,” McCloskey writes in a short essay for National Review on the virus crisis.

“Sometimes we need, in a war of survival (measles, Pearl Harbor), to reach over and coerce people. … We will recover, of course, and do not have to sacrifice our liberties forever to do so. ... Let’s not suppose that an occasionally necessary coercion justifies a future of coercionism.”

A related essay appears in the Spectator.

The Real Sense of the Word

C-SPAN, 2 February 2020.

C-SPAN’s Peter Slen goes “In Depth” with McCloskey on her latest book Why Liberalism Works.

“I'm a liberal in the real sense of the word. The word comes from the Latin which means a free person, as—and this was very much in the minds of Romans when they used the word—contrasted with a slave. And one very simple way of describing true liberalism is to say that everyone has the right to say no.”

The American Question

Reason, 19 December 2019.

If you're so smart, why aren't you rich? McCloskey reminds us to stay away from attempts to predict the future prices of stocks and bonds.

“Why do the sophisticated economists laugh at stock tips and interest-rate predictions? The answer is another question: ‘If you're so smart, why aren’t you rich?’ One might call it the American Question. If Ms. Jones, an investment counselor, knew the future of financial prices, she could get a second mortgage on her house and make a fortune. An unlimited fortune, in fact, because she could reinvest the profits. So why is she wearing a suit from JCPenney? And why is she selling tips to you for a modest commission?”

Fukuyama Was Correct

Schmollers Jahrbuch, 2019.

The political scientist’s famed prediction that we are witnessing “the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government” was right, says McCloskey in the Journal of Contextual Economics.

“Three decades on, Fukuyama remains correct about liberalism—despite the recent noise, and violence, from populists of the left and the right, and the supposition on many sides that noise and violence are evidence of the long-term success of anti-liberal ideology. It does not occur to people that if anti-liberal régimes have to resort to riot police and poisoning and concentration camps, they might not have such a brilliant future.”

In a Time of Populist Upheaval

American Enterprise Institute, 15 October 2019.

McCloskey converses with Jim Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute regarding the newly published Why Liberalism Works.

The Future of Academic Economics

Bettering Humanomics (forthcoming).

“To get a better economic science we need ‘humanomics,’ which uses broader theorizing and more serious empiricism than at present," asserts McCloskey in a new book manuscript (draft table of contents, preface, and introduction available here).

“A future economics should use the available scientific logic and evidence, all of it—experimental, simulative, introspective, questionnaire, graphical, statistical, literary, historical, psychological, sociological, political, ethical. To deploy an old joke, the economist drunk on his specialized distillation should stop hoping that the house keys he lost out in the dark will just happen to show up under the lamppost, where the light is better. The economist should become seriously quantitative and seriously qualitative, too, practicing an entire human science. No more cargo cults, dears. Get serious ethically. Search for all the scientifically relevant knowledge out in the dark, where much of it is to be found, not only under the lamppost.”

Money for Nothing?

Institute of Art and Ideas, May 2019.

Guy Standing and Deirdre McCloskey analyzed the benefits and potential downsides of a universal basic income policy during a ‘debate’ at last year’s HowTheLightGetsIn festival. Video of their discussion is now available from IAI.tv.

Darkness, Authority, and Dreams

Institute of Art and Ideas, April 2019.

McCloskey, Mark Lilla, and Noam Chomsky participated in a keynote debate led by Rana Mitter at the HowTheLightGetsIn festival in May of last year. Video of that event is now available online.

Italy in March

DeirdreMcCloskey.org, March 2019.

McCloskey will give several talks in Milan over the next two weeks, including a series of four lectures at IULM on March 12, 13, 19, and 20, and a discussion with Alberto Mingardi at UniSR on March 13.

After Two Decades

Afterword to Crossing: A Transgender Memoir (2019)

A 20th anniversary edition of McCloskey’s memoir Crossing is planned by University of Chicago Press for later this year, with a new afterword (available here on DeirdreMcCloskey.org).

“How does a new gender feel after all these years? Great. Most decisions leave at least a small regret, a 4:00 a.m. wakefulness. Did you marry the right person? (In my case, yes.) Did you choose the right profession? (In my case, yes.) Should Donald have stayed at his beloved University of Chicago, which in 1980 he left from irritation at the reluctance in the Economics Department, though not in History, to promote him right away to full professor? (A hard one, that; but on the whole, yes.) But becoming Deirdre has evoked not the slightest passing instant of regret.”

Learn to Love Trade with China

DeirdreMcCloskey.org, January 2019.

“Get ready for the Great Trump-Xi Depression,” warns McCloskey in an op-ed. “The White House is pursuing two stupid policies, trying to reduce the balance of payments with China and trying to protect ‘intellectual property’ from China’s thievery.”

“Unemployment, inflation, and higher income can all be felt in real life, and are therefore worth monitoring. But when did you last feel the U.S. balance of trade? You feel only the idiotic policies advocated in reaction to it...”

“Patents and copyrights make things that are free in nature artificially scarce in order to cream off profit for the influentials. ... Economists would be satisfied with a rough-and-ready rule of, say, a 10-year monopoly. But asserting an expansive right to intellectual property...is no solution. If the Chinese steal ideas, we American consumers get the benefit.”

Grinding Away at Theoretical Econometrics?

Journal of Economic Education, forthcoming 2019.

Don’t keep at it, say Ziliak and McCloskey, in a forthcoming Journal of Economic Education symposium.

“Econometrics, understood as regression analysis with null hypothesis significance testing in the absence of a substantive loss function, has yielded no major economic finding since its invention in the 1940s. By contrast, other quantitative methods, such as crude or not so crude simulations (such as Harberger triangles), historical inquiries (such as The Monetary History of the United States), massive experiments (such as episodes of hyperinflation in Israel or Argentina), or the scatter plots Professor [G. M. Peter] Swann uses (such as the Phillips Curve when first articulated) have changed scientific opinions repeatedly and, in another sense, significantly.”

A Prefatory Word

Post-Truth: Knowledge as a Power Game by Steve Fuller, 2018.

In her preface to Steve Fuller’s new book Post-Truth, McCloskey tells how he “draws our attention most penetratingly to the rules, as a philosopher should, and adds that in a fully democratic polity the rules of debate should be under contestation.”

“Fuller’s point is that there is always politics. Calling a move ‘clumsy’ or ‘demonizing’ is a rhetorical turn in a human conversation, not a fact written in the stars. … The obstacle has always been Truth, capital T, the Truth designed to pull the invisible strings, the anti-rhetorical and Methodological premise beloved of authoritarians everywhere. ‘That’s not fair,’ says the scientific or political tyrant, hoping to settle the argument without argument. The most the scientific tyrant is willing to concede by way of debate is the phony procedure of ‘peer review,’ which Fuller skewers as ‘a desultorily organized protection racket.’”

Both Heart and Brain

Draft for Burton, ed., Free Markets (forthcoming)

“Politics should have both heart and brain, if it is to be ethical,” writes McCloskey in a draft book chapter.

“The sin of socialism is to leave out the brain part after age 26. Take, for example, the numerous sophisticated socialists who rely on marxoid analyses. They will not listen to the numerous reasons that Marx was wrong. ... Since the 1930s especially I reckon that the left has not been willing listen to scientific correction. Karl Polanyi argued in 1944 that markets are new, but he and his followers down to the present have been unwilling to listen to evidence that markets are ancient. The Polanyists simply sneer ignorantly at the obviously bad people on the right who do not agree with Polanyi’s conviction that market-tested betterment has been a terrible interlude.”

Free Speech, Rhetoric, and a Free Economy

DeirdreMcCloskey.org, October 2018.

“Free speech is more than merely parallel to free exchange,” says McCloskey in a newly revised essay. “The liberal society is one that gets its rhetoric straight.”

“Talk is the main asset of a political culture, as durable as any of its bronze and pyramids. When ‘words lost their meaning,’ the Athenians were doomed. Indeed, institutions consist largely of ethical agreements about how to talk. ... Markets in particular live on people’s tongues, which therefore must be free to wag. A calculation of the amount of time business people spend talking to suppliers, employees, bankers, customers, and each other would show that the economy is largely a rhetorical affair, a matter of establishing ethos and in other ways persuading each other to cooperate. ‘Changing minds,’ we say, but by no violence.”

Sugar Highs in the History of Economics

D’Amico and Martin, eds., Advances in Austrian Economics (forthcoming).

In a draft book chapter, McCloskey criticizes trends in economics such as “the econometric movement, with its large number of shovel-ready articles and its lack of attention to serious doubts” and “the empirical Austrian program, and also...the overlapping program of neo-institutionalism” which lack “serious attention to quantitative simulation.”

“I have been a member since the 1960s of enough movements in economics to recognize a degenerative research program when I see it, usually a few years after I joined it... We should not demand more degenerative fashions with the half-lives of fruit flies. What we should demand are believable answers to serious questions, answers that stay answered... We seek truth, not faux-truth. We’re not merely trying to find employment for economics PhD’s... We seek not citations or impact factors and other corrupt decanal fancies but scientific progress. We want to create scientific value, which has to be judged by serious scientific standards, namely, by reading and assessing the work of the scientist, not by its mere popularity for the nonce among deans, soon dying out, like monopolistic competition and linear analysis, increasing returns and inevitable mass unemployment. To avoid cargo cults will require attention to serious rhetoric.”

The Ethical Formation of Economists

Dolfsma and Negru, eds., The Ethical Formation of Economists (forthcoming)

“To be raised up as human is to put on the vestments of ethics,” writes McCloskey in a chapter of a forthcoming edited volume. “The cynical economist will scorn, but in his actual human life he puts them on without thinking.”

“A political/economic philosophy needs to focus on how we get in the first place the people who are prudent, just, loving, etc., and who therefore would care about the capabilities of good health, emotional attachment, affiliation, etc., or about the appropriate constitutional changes to obviate prisoners’ dilemmas, or about the categorical imperative, or about the greatest happiness. This is what feminist economics has been saying now for four decades, and what also comes out of some development [note the word] economics, and even, reluctantly but persistently and embarrassingly, out of such unpromising-looking fields, often officially hostile to the slightest concern with ethics, as game theory, experimental economics, behavioral economics, realist international relations, the new institutionalism, and constitutional political economy.”

A Pretty Good Utopia

Mind-Body Problems by John Horgan, 2018.

The science writer John Horgan features McCloskey in a chapter of his new book Mind-Body Problems: Science, Subjectivity and Who We Really Are. The book can be read online for free.

“McCloskey, who was baptized at an Episcopalian church in Iowa City shortly after her crossing, views humanity as sinful. She compares her faith in God to her faith in democracy. She doesn’t necessarily believe ‘it’s all going to work out.’ God gave us free will because He doesn’t want us to be ‘puppets,’ McCloskey said. ‘Free will would be meaningless if there were no opportunity costs.’”

Why Liberalism’s Critics Fail

Modern Age, Summer 2018.

Patrick Deneen wishes to replace liberalism with “hierarchy and reaction,” writes McCloskey in a critical review of his Why Liberalism Failed.

“Deneen, like most of our deep social thinkers, has not opened a book of economics since Marx or of economic history since [Karl] Polanyi. … Why Liberalism Failed depends on the Master Mistake of modern social science, namely, that we are sorely alienated… the ‘arts of association,’ as Deneen’s teacher [Wilson Carey] McWilliams called them, are not in fact atrophied in modern life.”

Slavery Did Not Make America Rich

Reason, August/September 2018.

“Slavery made a few Southerners rich; a few Northerners, too,” writes McCloskey for Reason. “But it was ingenuity and innovation that enriched Americans generally.”

“Slavery was of course appalling, a plain theft of labor. The war to end it was righteous altogether—though had the South been coldly rational, the ending could have been achieved as in the British Empire in 1833 or Brazil in 1888 without 600,000 deaths. But prosperity did not depend on slavery. The United States and the United Kingdom and the rest would have become just as rich without the 250 years of unrequited toil. They have remained rich, observe, even after the peculiar institution was abolished, because their riches did not depend on its sinfulness.”

Do Libertarians Care About the Poor?

Kibbe on Liberty, July 2018.

“I got into economics when I was a socialist, because I wanted to help the poor. And I stayed wanting to help the poor. ... Capitalism makes the poor better off.”

Interview on a Historian’s Life

For a collection edited by Mauricio Meglioli, July 2018.

Mauricio Meglioli has interviewed McCloskey for a book on historians and history. In the interview she tells what inspired her as a historian, tells of her high school, college, and graduate school experiences, and speaks on an array of controversies and challenges.

“Notice that to measure anything you have to know what kind of thing it is. The humanities, therefore, are—in addition to their core role as the study of human meaning—a first step in any descriptive or policy science. For example, the descriptive science or the policy science of economics. Therefore it is madness to split the sciences and the humanities. The question whether economics is a science is thus solved. Of course it is a science, the way les sciences or le scienze are used in French or Italian (and in English before the middle of the 19th century).”

McCloskey in Barcelona

DeirdreMcCloskey.org, April 2018.

A lecture (video here), a podcast (listen here), and a print interview (en español) document McCloskey's visit to the Catalan capital.

The Mistakes People Make

Reason, February 2018.

Richard Thaler was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for showing that “limited rationality, social preferences, and lack of self-control...systematically affect individual decisions as well as market outcomes.” In an essay for Reason, McCloskey mounts an objection “to the market outcomes part.”

“Wikipedia lists fully 257 cognitive biases. In the category of decision-making biases alone there are anchoring, the availability heuristic, the bandwagon effect, the baseline fallacy, choice-supportive bias, confirmation bias, belief-revision conservatism, courtesy bias, and on and on. According to the psychologists, it's a miracle you can get across the street. ... [But] nowhere has anyone shown that the imperfections in the market amount to much in damaging the economy overall. People do get across the street. Income per head since 1848 has increased by a factor of 20 or 30. It is a scientifically bizarre oversight, as though a geologist offered an alternative theory of plate tectonics without showing that her ideas do a better job of explaining the shape of mountains or the alignment of the continents.”

Professional Ethics 101

Econ Journal Watch, January 2018.

McCloskey and George DeMartino, editors of The Oxford Handbook of Professional Economic Ethics, uphold the merits of that project in response to a highly negative Journal of Economic Literature review.

“When you have influence over others you take on ethical burdens. Think of your responsibilities to, say, your family or friends. And when you fail to confront those burdens openly, honestly, and courageously you are apt to make mistakes. As professional economists we have influence, and we do develop conversations about how we operate. Yet there is no serious, critical, scholarly conversation about professional economic ethics—never has been. That’s not good.”

Adam Smith, Liberal

DeirdreMcCloskey.org, January 2018.

The great Scottish philosopher was neither of the left nor the right in his attitudes toward the exercise of state power, said McCloskey at a recent conference of the International Adam Smith Society.

“Above all Smith believed...in letting ordinary people have a go. Smith, as many of us here have argued, was an egalitarian, not in the French sense of redistribution after production but in the Scottish sense of letting people try their hands freely at production in the first place. ... Smith advocated gradual, organic evolution, which [F. A.] Hayek observes is the sign of the true liberal, as against the unhinged experiments of the radical and the dark fears of the conservative.”

The Scientific Branch of Economics

ASSA Meeting, 6 January 2018.

"Economic history is the almost completely scientific portion of economics and of history," writes McCloskey in a paper for the Allied Social Sciences Association meeting in Philadelphia (available here on DeirdreMcCloskey.org).

“Realize, though, that the word ‘science’ is a big problem in English, and is misleading economic historians to try to imitate what they imagine happens in physics. ... Too often in economics the count or comparison does not happen, because economists think, as I have said, that theorems offer factual ‘insight,’ and believe that statistical significance ‘tests’ the theory against facts. The two sides, theory and econometrics, they say, therefore can specialize and specialize and specialize. Never trade. Such a procedure believes it imitates physics, without understanding how physics actually works. Physicists, as one can see in the lives and writings of Enrico Fermi and Richard Feynman, spend much of their time studying the physical equivalent of the Journal of Economic History.”

Learning to Think Like an Economist

For the celebration of Steven N. S. Cheung's 80th birthday

On the occasion of Steven N. S. Cheung's 80th birthday, Deirdre McCloskey remarks on meeting and learning from Cheung at Chicago.

MORE: McCloskey on Cheung’s economics: “Cheung asks. That's the essence. Asking is not part of the official rhetoric of economics. Yes, it sounds insane. Why wouldn't you go and ask business people what they think they are doing?! It's part of the evidence, surely. To put it in a way that Cheung might not agree with—although he might, being a very widely cultivated man—Cheung and Barzel and Coase and Alchian and a few others practice what I call ‘humanomics,’ using all the evidence of human action.”

Populism and the Free Society

Ratio Institute, 2 November 2017.

How should we interpret the recent political successes of populist parties and candidates? McCloskey, along with Luigi Zingales, Timur Kuran, and Nils Karlson, address that question in a conversation at the Ratio Institute in Stockholm.

Political Power and Economic Power

CKGSB Knowledge, 18 October 2017.

Why has there been such worry in the West over the improving economies of Japan and China? It is racism, says McCloskey, plus a "deep confusion between political power and economic power."

”There has never been outrage over the masses of foreign investment in the United States by, say, Britain and the Netherlands. ... The idea that by investing in a country you are taking it over politically is mistaken. In a trend of reverse outsourcing, the Chinese are now building factories in Kentucky, North Carolina, and Virginia, and Americans are getting benefits in terms of jobs—where exactly is the problem?”

Populism Is Zero Sum Under Majority Rule

Mont Pelerin Society Special Meeting paper, November 2017.

“Populism revives the ancient ideology of zero sum for an age of majority rule,” says McCloskey in a new conference paper draft (available here on DeirdreMcCloskey.org).

“Liberalism, by contrast, is a recent ideology of positive sum, with rights for minority groups, which often generate the positive sum. The pioneering management theorist of the 1920s, Mary Parker Follett [pictured], called it ‘win-win.’ Populism speaks instead of ‘win-lose,’ and darkly suspects that the minority groups are the source of the ‘lose.’”

Social Democracy, Humane Libertarianism

DeirdreMcCloskey.org, September 2017.

Rick Wicks and Deirdre McCloskey have engaged in a dialogue (read here, .pdf) around McCloskey's "Manifesto for a New American Liberalism."

Wicks: “I'm wondering why your focus on the matter of government seems so different?”
McCloskey: “Because I live in Chicago and you in Göteborg!”

A Liberal Climate of Ideas

Technology Policy Institute Aspen Forum, August 2017.

How did we get rich? McCloskey offers some answers in this talk at the Technology Policy Institute's Aspen Forum.

Bitcoins and Blockchains

Serious Science, August 2017.

Is blockchain technology an unprecedented development? No, says McCloskey: "Registers, reputation, secrecy, non-governmental currencies are routine in history."

“Blockchains may or may not transform the economy, but they are the same as many other such transformations, and we must not let a fevered science-fiction imagination take over our minds!”

Straight Man to Queer Woman

AEA newsletter, August 2017.

"A society like ours trying to follow Adam Smith’s liberal plan allows gender transition, and out gays and lesbians, and green hair," McCloskey writes in a reminiscence for an American Economic Association newsletter.

"And people change, which is something our Max U method needs to allow for, and not, as George Akerlof and Rachel Kranton do it, by putting Max U inside a wider Max V. Identity is not fungible with utility. Ask the mother who runs into a burning house to save her child, or a soldier who goes over the top at the Somme."

How Freedom Made Us Rich

Reason, 9 August 2017.

McCloskey talks to Nick Gillespie of Reason about the Bourgeois Era trilogy and much more in a new interview.

Is Inequality the Root of All Social Ills?

Prospect Magazine, August 2017.

In a Prospect Magazine "Duel" with the journalist Zoe Williams, McCloskey argues "that free markets are so beneficial, they render equality irrelevant."

"The left has abandoned its traditional care for the average and the poor in favour of a new obsession about the rich. Against a background of a rise of real income for the average and the poor of 3,000 per cent since 1800, or a doubling since 1980, and more in the poorest places such as China, India and African nations, the left has wanted to change the subject, just so long as it could carry on hating capitalism."

The Bourgeois Era, in 74 hours

Gildan Media, 29 June 2017.

All three of McCloskey's Bourgeois Era books are now available in audiobook format.

Manifesto for a New American Liberalism

9 June 2017.

In an essay for a forthcoming volume to be edited by Benjamin Powell, McCloskey makes “the case for a new and humane American ‘libertarianism.’”

“I want you to become less self-satisfied in your progressivism or your conservatism or even your amiable middle-of-the-road-ism. I want you to realize that they all depend to a greater or lesser degree on an exercise of the monopoly of violence. I want you to admire sweet talk, liberal rhetoric, peaceful exchange. I want you above all to become much less certain than you are now that The Problem is ‘capitalism’ or the Enlightenment, or that liberty can be Taken Too Far, or that government programs, protections, regulations, and prohibitions are usually innocent exercises by wise bureaucrats to better the lives of Americans.”

MORE: McCloskey discusses the essay in a podcast for Libertarianism.org.

Communicating Economics

Communicating Economics Ltd., 11 May 2017.

McCloskey offers a short tutorial to economists looking to improve at communicating their ideas to others.

Ludwig Lachmann’s Humanomics

WINIR symposium on Lachmann, 13 April 2017.

For the World Interdisciplinary Network for Institutional Research symposium in Johannesburg on the legacy of Ludwig Lachmann, McCloskey prepared a keynote lecture (video on YouTube) and a conference paper (.pdf download from DeirdreMcCloskey.org).

"The 'hardest' sciences rely on human categories. The category of 'capital accumulation,' for example, can be defined in an aggregate, Smithian/Keynesian way. Or it can be defined in a disaggregated, task-specific Austrian way. The humanistic job of economic theory, as Lachmann well knew, is to ponder the categories, to see their internal logic. But the humanistic step, though I am saying it is quite necessary for scientific thought, is not the whole scientific job. Theory is not science tout court."

ALSO: McCloskey talks to Gareth van Zyl about Lachmann and about the prospects for economic growth in South Africa.

Excuses for Statism, and for Staying Poor

Cato Online Forum, April 2017.

For a Cato Institute forum on the "Future of the Free Society," McCloskey catalogs an array of excuses often heard for opposition to economic liberalization.

We do not need at the outset a perfect government. Perfect government is unattainable, and anyway unnecessary for a free economy. We do not need more laws, more education, or more guardians. What we need, comprehensively, is liberty.

How to Be a Humane Libertarian

DeirdreMcCloskey.org, 22 February 2017.

McCloskey is preparing a new book that collects "essays written over the past couple of decades making the case for a new and humane American libertarianism." A draft table of contents and preface for the book are available here on DeirdreMcCloskey.org (.pdf).

"Understand that the greatest challenges facing humankind are not terrorism or inequality or crime or population growth or climate change or slowing productivity or the breakdown of family values or whatever new pessimism our friends on the left or right will come up with next, about which they will write urgent editorials until the next 'challenge' justifying government compulsion swims into their ken. The greatest challenges are today and have always been poverty and tyranny."

Getting Over Naïve Scientism

American Economic Association meetings, 7 January 2017.

"Splendid scientists, splendid men," McCloskey says of the Nobel-winning economists Robert Fogel and Douglass North. And yet, as she writes in a paper for the 2017 ASSA conference in Chicago, they shared "a naïve and unscientific view of Science."

“You can't do good science without meaning. Bob and Doug often forgot this. Unlike the physical and even the 'positive-economics' end of the social sciences, the humanities—such as literary criticism in the Department of Literature, and number theory in the Department of Mathematics, and transcendence in the Department of Theology—study meaning.”

Wrong Anti-Poverty Recipes

Vita, 30 November 2016.

We should stop using the metaphor of "fighting" poverty, McCloskey says, in an interview given to Monica Straniero of Vita:

“Running out into the street and shouting at people, much less kidnapping businessmen and murdering them (listen up, Antonio Negri), is not how the workers get better off, economically or spiritually. They get better off by living in a better functioning economy. How to get it? As the businessmen of Paris said in 1681 when Colbert asked them what the government could do for them, ‘Laissez-nous faire.’”

A Killer App for Humanomics

Southern Economic Association meeting, 20 19 November 2016.

"Economics ignores persuasion in the economy," writes McCloskey in her conference paper for the annual meeting of the Southern Economic Association in Washington.

“The economics of asymmetric information or common knowledge over the past 40 years speaks of costs and benefits but bypasses persuasion, ‘sweet talk.’ Sweet talk accounts for a quarter of national income, and so is not merely cheap. Research should direct economics, and the numerous other social sciences influenced by economics, back towards human meaning in speech—meaning which has even in the most rigorously behaviorist experiments been shown to matter greatly to the outcome. Sweet talk is deeply unpredictable, which connects it to the puzzling economics of entrepreneurship, of discovery, and of innovation.”

How the World Grew Rich

Nobel Conference, Gustavus Adolphus College, 2016.

At this month's Nobel Conference at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, McCloskey gave a presentation titled "How the World Grew Rich: The Liberal Idea, Not Accumulation or Exploitation." Watch the video above or at YouTube.

Liberalism, Neoliberalism, and the Literary Left

Interview by W. Stockton and D. Gilson (forthcoming).

McCloskey has "noticed that the left assumes that it is dead easy to refute the so-called neoliberals," and offers instruction in a lengthy new interview.

ALSO: McCloskey provides a brief on liberalism and the Bourgeois Era trilogy for Il Giornale, in italiano, and also here in English.

Equality, Liberty, Justice and Wealth

New York Times, 4 September 2016.

"The world is rich and will become still richer. Quit worrying," McCloskey advises in the New York Times:

"Give masses of ordinary people equality before the law and equality of social dignity, and leave them alone, and it turns out that they become extraordinarily creative and energetic. … Since Karl Marx, we have made a habit of seeking material causes for human progress. But the modern world came from treating more and more people with respect."

Serious Science

Serious Science, June 2016.

Two new video lectures by McCloskey, "Explaining Modern Economic Growth" (embedded above) and "Ethics for an Age of Commerce," have been published through the nonprofit organization Serious Science.

Ethical and Scientific Offences

Capitalism & Society, 2016 (forthcoming).

In a forthcoming symposium paper (draft available here on DeirdreMcCloskey.org), McCloskey critiques Werner Erhard and Michael Jensen's "Putting Integrity Into Finance: A Purely Positive Approach."

Viewpoint videos

American Enterprise Institute, June 2016.

The American Enterprise Institute has created a series of videos with Michael Strain interviewing McCloskey on capitalism, income equality, the Reformation and more. The first video in the playlist is embedded above.

Two Movements in Economic Thought

DeirdreMcCloskey.org, 27 June 2016.

The theme of a new draft paper from McCloskey is "of a Rise and Fall of understanding, arising from a failure to measure one's understanding."

"The history of economics can...be divided into two parts. Before 1848 was the education, stretching slowly from Aristotle, accelerating in the late 18th century and especially in the early 19th. After 1848 was the re-education (or some would say, as I would, the 'de-education')."

McCloskey on Russia

Dozhd, 18 April 2016; Liberty, November 2016.

McCloskey talks to Natalya Shanetskaya of Russian television outlet Dozhd about virtues and vices, world politics, and Bourgeois Equality.

"Well, you had seventy years of communism, and it was very bad for you—for your ethics—quite contrary to what we thought. I was a Marxist once, I was a socialist...I loved the revolution, when I was young. No longer."

ALSO: "The illiberalism of Putin and Orbán is doomed, as much as they preen themselves now," says McCloskey in an interview for Liberty, a Russian publication.

My Transgender Transition

Wall Street Journal, 3 June 2016.

"What's it like to have been a man until age 53, in 1995, then to change?" McCloskey asks, and answers, this question in an essay for the Wall Street Journal.

"I am sometimes congratulated for bravery. As an old friend once put it to me, 'I would hide anywhere, at any expense, to avoid what you are doing.' But crossing didn’t feel brave to me. It was a relief. After four decades, I didn’t have to work so hard to hold together a soul and a persona that were too far apart. A few years ago my priest gave a sermon about the spiritual life as the bringing together of the core of our being and its presentation to others. It startled me with its truth and helped me to see what had led me to become a Christian after my crossing."

A Brief Statement in London

Intelligence Squared, 17 May 2016.

"The whole world is becoming richer."

Conversations on Bourgeois Equality

Mercatus Center at George Mason University, 21 April 2016; American Enterprise Institute, 3 May 2016.

On April 21, Deirdre McCloskey and Don Boudreaux discussed McCloskey's new book; their conversation has appeared on C-SPAN2 and is also available an audio podcast. Then, on May 4, McCloskey and George Will talked about the book; video and a transcript (.pdf) of that event are available.

Books Read, Unread, and Unwritten

Times Higher Education, 14 April 2016.

McCloskey tells Karen Shook of Times Higher Education what she's reading now, and what books captivated her during childhood:

Winnie-the-Pooh, of course, and The Wind in the Willows (which I found unreadably overwritten when I tried it on my own children) and The Jungle Book and the Book of Knowledge, a splendid children’s encyclopedia (a joint US-British venture)—all of which infected an American child with nostalgia for Britain c.1900. I carry on, to the point of following cricket and favouring a half of warm bitter with my mushy peas.

A Significant Statement

American Statistical Association, 5 February 2016.

The American Statistical Association has issued a commendable statement regarding regrettable common practices related to "statistical significance." The statement and an accompanying short paper are available free from the American Statistician. An email announcement of statement to ASA members said, in part:

"Today, the American Statistical Association Board of Directors issued a statement on p-values and statistical significance. We intend the statement, developed over many months in consultation with a large panel of experts, to draw renewed and vigorous attention to changing research practices that have contributed to a reproducibility crisis in science.
   "'Widespread use of "statistical significance" (generally interpreted as "p < 0.05") as a license for making a claim of a scientific finding (or implied truth) leads to considerable distortion of the scientific process,' says the ASA statement (in part). By putting the authority of the world's largest community of statisticians behind such a statement, we seek to begin a broad-based discussion of how to more effectively and appropriately use statistical methods as part of the scientific reasoning process.
   "In short, we envision a new era, in which the broad scientific community recognizes what statisticians have been advocating for many years. In this 'post p < .05 era,' the full power of statistical argumentation in all its nuance will be brought to bear to advance science, rather than making decisions simply by reducing complex models and methods to a single number and its relationship to an arbitrary threshold. This new era would be marked by radical change to how editorial decisions are made regarding what is publishable, removing the temptation to inappropriately hunt for statistical significance as a justification for publication. In such an era, every aspect of the investigative process would have its appropriate weight in the ultimate decision about the value of a research contribution."

The Lives of Deirdre McCloskey

Chronicle of Higher Education, 20 March 2016.

"Her gender change may be the least iconoclastic thing about her," says a new profile of McCloskey (also in .pdf format) in the Chronicle of Higher Education, which is accompanied by an interview with McCloskey on writing.

"I tell my students...that—short of Borges—writing can be learned like any skill. We are not all as gifted as Edward Leamer is in econometrics, but we can learn the tricks if we study them.'"

Persuasion in the Economy

Eastern Economic Association meetings, 26 February 2016.

“Research should direct economics...back towards human meaning in speech,” writes McCloskey in a new conference paper, “Adam Smith Did Humanomics: So Should We.”

"...people do not merely silently offer shillings and silently hand over haircuts. People are not, as Samuelsonian economics supposes, vending machines. They talk, or as Arjo Klamer puts it, they converse. And in conversing they open each other to modifications of the price, it may be, and anyway they establish, as we say, the 'going' price—which is how the paradoxes of continuous traders and so forth in Arrow-Debreu formulations are solved in practice, and why experimental markets work so amazingly well despite not satisfying the Arrow-Debreu conditions even approximately."

Reforming Saudi Arabia

BBC Radio 4, 7 December 2015.

McCloskey chats about the modernization of the Middle East on BBC Radio 4's "Start the Week" program.

"The sheer accumulation of oil wealth is not going to be so sheer very soon. It will run out. Saudi Arabia is on the margin of the world economy, and if it's going to succeed for its people it has to adopt free enterprise, along with which goes, I claim, freedom generally."

Trans Talks

Institute for Humane Studies, November 2015.

A new video series from the Institute for Humane Studies features McCloskey in conversation regarding gender freedom. A trailer for the series is embedded above, and you can watch the first, second, and third episodes on the IHS's Learn Liberty website.

>> Find more stories on page two

You can get news and updates from Prudentia on Twitter.
Looking for a specific McCloskey article? See something amiss? E-mail Prudentia’s editor.