Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of speaking with Deirdre Nansen McCloskey. Deirdre is a Distinguished Scholar and Isaiah Berlin Chair in Liberal Thought at the Cato Institute, as well as Distinguished Professor Emerita of Economics and of History, and Professor Emerita of English and of Communication, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a highly regarded economic historian and, in her own words, a “literary, quantitative, postmodern, free‐market, progressive‐Episcopalian, ex‐marxoid, Midwestern woman from Boston who was once a man.”
Deirdre is the author of many academic articles and books. The latter include her most recent work, Why Liberalism Works: How True Liberal Values Produce a Freer, More Equal, Prosperous World for All (2019), and the famed trilogy of books on the Bourgeois Era: The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce (2006), Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World (2010), and Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World (2016).
Over the course of two hours, we discussed the spread of classical liberalism as a chief cause of the Great Enrichment, the renewed interest of the clerisy in the discredited idea of industrial policy, the workings of spontaneous order, bureaucratic meddling in the economy and public choice theory, F. A. Hayek’s distinction between the macro and micro worlds, the importance of innovation for economic growth, the difference between Smithian and Schumpeterian growth, hierarchy and equality, progress and utopia, the differences between conservatism, classical liberalism, and progressivism, revolution versus evolution, the importance of studying history, the rise of liberalism in the 18thcentury, Francis Fukuyama, interjurisdictional competition, and ancient China.
We end our conversation on a personal note, with Deirdre reflecting on her life’s journey and her message to young people today.