©Deirdre Nansen McCloskey | COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

deirdremccloskey Deirdre Nansen McCloskey
Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication
University of Illinois at Chicago

Deirdre McCloskey taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago from 2000 to 2015 in economics, history, English, and communication. A well-known economist and historian and rhetorician, she has written 17 books and around 400 scholarly pieces on topics ranging from technical economics and statistical theory to transgender advocacy and the ethics of the bourgeois virtues. She is known as a “conservative” economist, Chicago-School style (she taught in the Economics Department there from 1968 to 1980, and in History), but protests that “I’m a literary, quantitative, postmodern, free-market, progressive-Episcopalian, Midwestern woman from Boston who was once a man. Not ‘conservative’! I’m a Christian libertarian.” ... more »

"There is the more encouragement to labor perseveringly in the removal of prejudices and the inculcation of just principles, inasmuch as the great majority of those whom you will find assenting to the most absurd arguments, and perfectly unmoved by the strongest, have no such natural incapacity for reasoning as some might thence infer; but possess powers which lie dormant for want of exercise; and these they may be roused to exert, when once they are brought to perceive that they have been accustomed to imagine themselves following a course of reasoning, when in fact they were not."
Richard Whately (1832; Introductory Lectures on Political Economy, 2nd ed., chp. 1, para. 11)

Contents and exordium to final volume of The Bourgeois Era

from Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital, Transformed the World (2016)

In the manuscript of Bourgeois Equality, as submitted to University of Chicago Press, McCloskey writes that her now-completed trilogy "chronicles, explains, and defends what made us rich."

"The cause of the bourgeois betterments…was an economic liberation and a sociological dignifying of, say, a barber and wig-maker of Bolton, son of a tailor, messing about with spinning machines, who died in 1792 as Sir Richard Arkwright possessed of one of the largest bourgeois fortunes in England. The Industrial Revolution and especially the Great Enrichment came from liberating the commoners from compelled service to an hereditary elite, such as the noble lord, or compelled obedience to a state functionary, such as the economic planner. And it came from according honor to the formerly despised of Bolton—or of Ōsaka, or of Lake Wobegon—commoners exercising their liberty to relocate a factory or invent airbrakes."

State of Thieves

Wall Street Journal, 28 February 2015.

Deirdre McCloskey reviews Sarah Chayes's Thieves of State and Jay Cost's A Republic No More for the Wall Street Journal (also available here).

"Adding laws onto an ethically corrupt state will not change much of anything, because the monopoly of violence goes on tempting. The mechanical rules of bribery in Stockholm are probably the same as in Delhi, and the jaywalking rules in Berlin the same as in New York. The difference is ethics. Without ethics no amount of institutional ‘redesign’ would yield the honest government that Swedes have and that American progressives fantasize about."

Bourgeois Shakespeare

ASSA Meeting, 4 January 2015.

Deirdre McCloskey took part in a "Shakespeare and Economics" panel at the 2015 Allied Social Science Associations meeting in Boston. Her presentation, based on a portion of her forthcoming book Bourgeois Equality, is titled "Bourgeois Shakespeare Disdained Trade and the Bourgeoisie" (download full paper or reading copy here).

Max U vs. Humanomics

Journal of Institutional Economics (2015)

In the Journal of Institutional Economics, McCloskey offers "A Critique of Neo-Institutionalism", arguing that the Great Enrichment "was by a factor of upwards of a hundred, which cannot be explained by routine movements to an efficient equilibrium."

"No institution—not the state or the church or the university or the republics of science and letters—rationally intended the frenetic betterment that has characterized the West and now the rest since 1800. … The economists want to reduce motivation to predictable Max U. But the point is that the modern world was not predictable. It depended on the new and liberal notion of liberty and dignity, and their unpredictable results in betterment for all."

Battles to be won

Windy City Times, 17 September 2014.

McCloskey talks to Chicago's Windy City Times about career, crossing, and change in a free society.

"[Using] the arts...is the way that anything changes in a free society. But the arts in question are not mainly avant-garde installations or street theater. The arts that matter have to be popular. I mention 'Transamerica,' which by itself did more for trans equality than a hundred angry assaults on convention through cutting edge art. The press needs to stand up—I am getting, as I told you, a crazy amount of publicity these weeks in London. 'OK, Deirdre, act well, act like a graceful but strong woman, don't scare the horses.' It makes the transphobes look stupid."

"Big Read" on wage growth

Financial Times, 18 September 2014.

McCloskey is among eight economists who offer "ideas to jump-start wage growth" in a Financial Times forum. She writes, in part:

"Let betterment proceed by stripping away the silliest of the regulations, many of them emanating from Brussels, and the rest from special interests, or plain monopoly. To suppose that restricting free exchange makes the poor or the median better off is magical thinking. Give up the minimum wage, the 'protection' of jobs, the over-regulation of banking and the support for monopolies from taxis to surgeons."

"A tetralogy is an abomination."

VoiceAmerica Business, 8 August 2014.

McCloskey has recorded a podcast on her forthcoming book Bourgeois Equality—the last in her Bourgeois Era trilogy—with hosts Ron Baker and Ed Kless of the VeraSage Institute.

Equality vs. Lifting Up the Poor

Financial Times, 12 August 2014

Deirdre McCloskey has penned a new opinion piece for the Financial Times (also here).

"It matters ethically, of course, how the rich obtained their wealth… What does not matter ethically are the routine historical ups and downs of the Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality, or the excesses of the 1 per cent of the 1 per cent, of a sort one could have seen three centuries ago in Versailles. … There are ways to help the poor—let the Great Enrichment proceed, as it has in China and India—but charity or expropriation are not the ways."

A rival to Thomas Piketty?

BBC, 26 May 2014; The Spectator (London), 24 May.

Evan Davis, who interviewed Deirdre McCloskey for an episode of BBC Radio 4's "Analysis" program (listen), has written a column pitting McCloskey's views on capital and inequality against those of the economist Thomas Piketty, author of the acclaimed Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

"Liberty Matters" forum on The Bourgeois Era

Liberty Fund, July 2014.

The Online Library of Liberty is featuring new commentary on Deirdre McCloskey's books Bourgeois Virtues and Bourgeois Dignity, including a lead essay by Donald Boudreaux, responses from Joel Mokyr, John Nye, and McCloskey (.pdf), and further discussion.

On a guaranteed income

PBS NewsHour, 24 April 2014.

Paul Solman interviews Deirdre McCloskey—and Enno Schmidt, Charles Murray, Veronique de Rugy, David Graeber, Felix Oberholzer-Gee, Barbara Bergmann, and Megan McArdle—for PBS NewsHour (video) on the policy of a guaranteed basic income.

"Virtues Lost"

ABC Religion & Ethics, 18 December 2013.

In this essay McCloskey reviews the intellectual history of the seven principal virtues and emphasizes that they comprise a system.

"The system of the virtues developed for two millennia in the West had been widely abandoned by the end of the eighteenth century, with Machiavelli, then Bacon, then Hobbes, then Bernard Mandeville as isolated but scandalous precursors of Kant and Bentham, who then rigorously finished off the job. It was not dropped because it was found on careful consideration to be mistaken. It was merely set aside with a distracted casualness, perhaps as old-fashioned, or as unrealistic in an age with a new idea of the Real, or as associated with religious and political systems themselves suddenly objectionable."

"An Economist's Sermon"

ABC Religion & Ethics, 27 November 2013.

Deirdre McCloskey offers a meditation on work and the moral obligation to self-development.

"To put it economically, God wants us to face scarcity. He wants it not because he is a trickster who is amused by seeing us struggle with disease and the law of gravity in our pain-filled and finite lives. He so loves us that, after Eden, he wants us to have the dignity of choice."

Challenging Statistical Significance

Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, October 2013.

Video is now available of the October 28 webinar given by Deirdre McCloskey on statistical significance. ICPSR also has posted a new interview with McCloskey on that "tiny technique" of which too much is made.

"Real scientists make a judgment within the context of the conversation of physics or geology or whatever it is. The same needs to be done—and is done, but secretly, behind the curtain—​in economics and sociology and medicine."

"Transgender in America"

WBUR-FM/National Public Radio, 28 August 2013.

Listen as Deirdre McCloskey, Ryan Sallans, Andrew Solomon, and NPR broadcaster Tom Ashbrook discuss gender identity and take phone calls.

More: McCloskey, in the New Republic: "Give Chelsea Manning a medal and some estrogen."

McCloskey replies to David Friedman and others on Bourgeois Dignity and Thomas Malthus

Ideas (David Friedman's blog), July 2013.

The anarchist-anachronist-economist David Friedman is reading Deirdre McCloskey's 2010 book; he offers some thoughts in a blog post, and McCloskey replies in a comment.

Watch: McCloskey talks capitalism on Dutch TV

NTR HoeZo Internationaal, 7 March 2013.

"We have weaker ties—weaker connections with each other—but we have more of them… We still have community in the modern world."

Also: McCloskey is interviewed, both singly and with Arjo Klamer, by Dutch journalist Frank Mulder.

Even more: McCloskey on optimism, neuroeconomics, and hagelslag.

McCloskey comments on Douglas Allen's Institutional Revolution

Review of Austrian Economics, forthcoming.

"A Neo-Institutionalism of Measurement, Without Measurement: A Comment on Douglas Allen’s The Institutional Revolution" is Deirdre McCloskey's contribution to a symposium that will appear in a future issue of the Review of Austrian Economics.

“Allen does yeoman work in explaining some of the peculiarities of British public administration, such as the reliance on aristocratic honor and on the prize system in naval warfare. But he attributes to public administration an implausible effect on private incomes. The merging of power and plenty is mistaken.”

Why Neo-Institutionalism Can’t Explain the Modern World: A Pamphlet

from Bourgeois Dignity (2010)

A five-chapter excerpt from McCloskey's book Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World that contends particularly with the work of economist Douglass North.

"We Agree That Statistical Significance Proves Essentially Nothing"

Econ Journal Watch 10(1), January 2013.

Stephen Ziliak and Deirdre McCloskey have the last word in an Econ Journal Watch exchange with Thomas Mayer over Ziliak and McCloskey's The Cult of Statistical Significance.

Deirdre McCloskey reviews Francesco Boldizzoni's The Poverty of Clio: Resurrecting Economic History

Investigaciones de Historia Económica - Economic History Research 9(1), February 2013.

"Boldizzoni's attack on cliometrics is unpersuasive, in part because he does not grasp economics and its uses, in part because he admires uncritically the German Historical School and their modern descendants, the French Annalistes..."

What's Wrong in Piketty

EA (Institute of Economic Affairs), forthcoming.

McCloskey gives an interview (.pdf) to EA, the Institute of Economic Affairs's magazine for secondary-school students, on Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

"The danger is that each new generation will not realize how great the Bourgeois Deal has been, and will forget how bad the earlier deals have been."

McCloskey on Marx, Marxists, Marxians, and marxoids

American Enterprise Institute, 1 October 2015.

McCloskey participated in a discussion with Susan Shell and Yuval Levin on October 1 (watch video) at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. McCloskey's paper for the event, "Economic Liberty as Anti-Flourishing: Marx and Especially His Followers," is available here (.pdf).

"Bourgeois Equality" lecture

Legatum Institute, 16 September 2015.

McCloskey presented arguments from her forthcoming Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World at the Legatum Institute in London on September 16. A video of the lecture is available, and also Times Higher Education made a report.

How Piketty Misses the Point

Cato Policy Report, July/August 2015.

This new publication from McCloskey is a précis of her widely read review of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

"For reasons I have never understood, people like to hear that the world is going to hell, and become huffy and scornful when some idiotic optimist intrudes on their pleasure. Yet pessimism has consistently been a poor guide to the modern economic world."

So What?

Address at Denison University, 15 May 2015

McCloskey gave the commencement address at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, on May 15. Read it here.

"We humans need the transcendent. I don’t mean we should need it, or that virtuous people need it, or any other conditional need. It just turns out that humans think a lot about the transcendent. A life without a belief beyond our normal lives is not fully human."

McCloskey on Piketty

Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics (2014)

Deirdre McCloskey has published a review essay of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century in the latest issue of Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics.

Also, on November 11 McCloskey participated in a panel discussion of the book, hosted by Policy Exchange.

"They're a full-scale defense of what we usually call 'capitalism'."

Illinois Policy, 20 August 2014.

In this recent speech, McCloskey presents many of the arguments found in the three books of her now-completed "boxed set" on the Bourgeois Era.

On the Great Enrichment

Institute of Economic Affairs, July 2014.

McCloskey tells ieaTV about the magnitude of economic changes over the past two centuries and explores the causes of those changes.

"In actual, functioning, real enterprise, all these virtues have to be in play"

BBC, 24 June 2014.

Deirdre McCloskey speaks with Stephen Sackur of BBC's "HARDtalk" (audio podcast, or video) about inequality, markets, and virtues.

"Every enterprise in a capitalist economy works through solidarity, love, sympathy, common courtesy… Any economy, socialist or capitalist or however you wish, is a mixture of the virtues of love, hope, and faith, on the one hand, and the virtue of prudence—which by itself is called greed, but when it's in tune with justice and courage and temperance and love, it works pretty well."

Are Markets Moral?

Centre for Civil Society, 4 January 2014.

At a conference in New Delhi exploring this question, Deirdre McCloskey presented a paper titled "The Great Enrichment Came and Comes from Ethics and Rhetoric" (download, .pdf).

"What changed in Europe, and then the world, was not the material conditions of society, or 'commercialization,' or a new security of property, but the rhetoric of trade and production and improvement—that is, the way influential people talked about earning a living, such as Defoe, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Hume, Turgot, Franklin, Smith, Paine, Wilkes, Condorcet, Pitt, Sieyes, Napoleon, Godwin, Humboldt, Wollstonecraft, Bastiat, Martineau, Mill, Manzoni, Macaulay, Peel, and Emerson."

Economic liberty and social honor

Institute for Humane Studies, April 2014.

McCloskey finds in these the causes of the great increase in material well-being over the past two centuries.

"Humanomics: Or, Why Neo-Classical, Neo-Marxist, and Neo-Institutionalist Views of History and the Economy Are Wrong"

University of Nebraska–Lincoln, 27 February 2014.

Deirdre McCloskey offered this talk as part of UNL's "Humanities on the Edge" series.

"Cautiously Optimistic: Bourgeois Dignity and Global Prosperity"

Centre for Independent Studies, 27 November 2013.

McCloskey delivered the annual John Bonython Lecture at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney.

"What's Still Wrong with Marxism: Some Fragments on a Theme"

from Bourgeois Dignity (2010) and Bourgeois Equality (2015), and from teaching materials

This new seminar paper from Deirdre McCloskey (download, .pdf) includes some material from the next book in her Bourgeois Era series.

"The profit in a business that the left abhors is temporary. The reward to venturing for example on robotization has been eroded time and again among improvers by their competition, leaving as fruits much cheaper cloth and steel and autos. After all, a blast furnace and a spinning jenny, or for that matter an Acheulean hand ax or a chariot wheel, are 'robots,' that is, contrivances that abridge labor. In Afrikaans the word 'robot' means what it means elsewhere, following its coinage in Hungary. But it is also the normal Afrikaans word for 'traffic light.' Precisely: any contrivance substitutes for raw labor, equivalent to a robot…"

A Sweet Talk on Free Speech

Institute for Humane Studies, November 2013.

In this persuasive short video, Deirdre McCloskey argues that, in a free society, it's rhetoric all the way down.

"The Great Enrichment Continues"

Current History, November 2013.

McCloskey has contributed an essay to the November issue of Current History, which is centered on the theme "The Future of Capitalism."

"The spirit is not damaged by trying Monday through Friday to innovate and supply in ways that make other people better off. Thank the Lord for the Bourgeois Deal and the Great Enrichment, and for the breakdown of hierarchy that caused them."

"The word data embodies an attitude to facts fatal to serious science."

Capital Ideas (Booth School of Business), Fall 2013.

Deirdre McCloskey identifies the real economics in Robert Fogel's classic work on railroads and growth.

"How Markets and Innovation Became Ethical and Then Suspect"

Cato Institute, 20 June 2013.

Deirdre McCloskey, Dalibor Rohac, and Don Boudreaux

Deirdre McCloskey was the featured speaker at this Cato Institute forum, which can be viewed online or downloaded as an audio podcast.

"Max U, the Virtues and Imprudent Communitarians"

Foundation for Economic Education, April 2013.

Max Borders of The Freeman speaks with Deirdre McCloskey in a four-part videoconference (1, 2, 3, 4).

Deirdre McCloskey receives Julian L. Simon Memorial Award

Competitive Enterprise Institute, 13 June 2013.

McCloskey was honored on June 20 at the Competitive Enterprise Institute's annual dinner and reception in Washington.

Also: Ryan Young and Fred Smith of CEI discuss McCloskey's work in a new podcast. See, too: Fred Smith on Bourgeois Dignity.

"The Moral Limits of Communitarianism: What Michael Sandel Can’t Buy"

Claremont Review of Books XII(4), Fall 2012.

McCloskey's full review of Michael J. Sandel's What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets is here on DeirdreMcCloskey.org; a shorter version appears in the Claremont Review of Books.

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