Why are markets so marvelous? Well, economist, historian, and amazing-all-around social theorist Deirdre McCloskey has an answer so compelling it’s changed the way we talk about economics. Markets, suggests McCloskey in her three book series on the “bourgeois era,” are not just good because they’re efficient and dynamic. No, market processes are much more important — and historically, the opening and expansion of markets has revolutionized not only economic systems, but social structures, changing the very basis on which human interaction occurs.
CREDIT: Taylor Glascock for The Wall Street Journal
Markets, suggest McCloskey, don’t just make us richer — they make us better people.
And this, she says, is something libertarians should be shouting from the mountaintops. If you want a society based on tolerance, respect, and — crucially — dignity for human life and choices, you need markets.
Deirdre Nansen McCloskey taught until 2015 economics, history, English, and communication, adjunct in philosophy and classics, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is the author of seventeen books and some 400 scholarly articles ranging from technical economics and statistics to gender studies and literary criticism, she has taught in England, Australia, Holland, Italy, and Sweden, and holds ten honorary degrees. Her trilogy of books (2006, 2010, 2016) on the “bourgeois era”; explains modern riches not from trade or exploitation or science, but as an outcome of a new respect after 1700 for trade-tested betterment, Adam Smith’s “liberal plan of [social] equality, [economic] liberty, and [legal] justice.”
McCloskey is often classed with “conservative” economists, Chicago-School style (she taught in the Economics Department there from 1968 to 1980, tenured in 1975, and during her last year also in History). She still admires supply and demand. But she protests: “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, or a humane liberal.”
If you want to make the compassionate case for markets, a better teacher can’t be found. McCloskey’s wide-ranging academic expertise makes her one of the most interesting speakers you’ll ever hear from. Reserve your space before it’s too late!
And bring your copy of The Bourgeois Virtuesif you want to get it signed during our post-speech “discussion room” sessions, new to LibertyCon this year.