114: Deirdre McCloskey on Equality and Greed and How To Be a Very Good Economist
Deirdre McCloskey taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago and was a Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication.
She was also adjunct professor of Philosophy and Classics there, and for five years was a visiting Professor of philosophy at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.
Since October 2007 Deirdre has received six honorary doctorates. In 2013, she received the Julian L. Simon Memorial Award from the Competitive Enterprise Institute for her work examining factors in history that led to advancement in human achievement and prosperity.
Deirdre’s main research interests include the origins of the modern world, the misuse of statistical significance in economics and other sciences, and the study of capitalism, among many others.
Deirdre 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.
Her latest book, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World is part of the Bourgeois Era trilogy described as an “apology” for capitalism.
Deirdre describes herself as a “post-modern, quantitative, free-market, feminist, Episcopalian, Midwestern, gender-crossing, literary woman”.
Deirdre’s website deirdremccloskey.org contains information and links to her books, articles, interviews and much more.
In this episode, Deirdre discusses and mentions: blackboard economics, poverty, game theory, inequality, education, healthcare, economic growth, trade, production possibility frontier, gains from trade, liberty, greed, equality, utility maximisation, covered interest arbitrage, theory of marriage.
In this episode, Deirdre discusses and mentions: Adam Smith, John Mayanrd Keynes, Karl Marx, David Hume, Gary Becker, Shoshana Grossbard, Nancy Folbre, Herbert Gintis, Jonathan McEvoy, Sam Bowles, Nassim Taleb, Paul Samuelson, Kenneth Arrow, Thomas Piketty, Joseph Schumpeter and David Ricardo.
On the Economics Discipline:
“It’s not to soften the science. It’s to harden the science. We’ve got to stop talking about this softening. That’s not going to persuade the guys to take this stuff seriously. It’s harder to do it correctly than to do it by going on and on with Game Theory and Max. U. As Keynes said ‘A person who is only an economist is not going to be a very good economist’. And I think that’s correct. You need to be a statistician and a mathematician of course and I’m not against that. But you also need to be a historian and a philosopher and a sociologist and a psychologist and a serious person who knows the world. And the way we know the world is mainly through the humanities, through theology, through religion, through novels. through poetry, song, country music where the river meets the road. It’s through films, through gossip, through going to a football game with their mates. That’s how we learn how societies really work. And it’s harder to bring that to bare our human experience into the economic science. But to get a good economic science, and like any thoughtful person agrees, you have to have all of that.” – Deirdre McCloskey
On Greed and Envy:
“Greed is a corrosive sin. Greed is the sin of the conservatives and envy is the sin of the socialists. And both of them is corrosive of the human soul. What happens in both greed and envy is that possessions, if you allow me I am a Christian, take the place of God or to take the place, to put it more generally, of some dignified transcendent outside yourself. Both of them are selfish.” – Deirdre McCloskey
“Liberalism is under attack everywhere, this populism that we see all over the place is anti-liberal above all. But I believe on the long run all societies will become liberal democracies. And the reason is the incredible magnitude of the economic gain from adopting liberal policies as in Singapore, as in Hong Kong, as in South Korea andTaiwan, as in Botswana, as in most spectacularity China and India. And then, if I can persuade people, in the longer sweep of history I make the point of Holland in the 17th century and England and Scotland in the 18th in the New World. And this liberal experiment that we engaged in then and is being repeated now in China and India is so productive that I think that it will win in the end.” – Deirdre McCloskey
People Mentioned in this Episode:
- Put pen to paper and keep going. – Deirdre McCloskey
- Read Deirdre’s book Economical Writing for amazing writing tips for economists.