Deirdre McCloskey taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago from 2000 to 2015 in economics, history, English, and communication. A well-known economist, 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.
Deirde McCloskey is known as a “conservative” economist, Chicago-School style (she taught in the Economics Department there from 1968 to 1980, and in History), but explains 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.”
With Stephen Ziliak in 2008 she wrote The Cult of Statistical Significance, which shows that null hypothesis tests of “significance” are, in the absence of a substantive loss function, meaningless (in 2011 the book figured in a unanimous Supreme Court decision).
Deirde McCloskey’s latest book, out in January 2016 from the University of Chicago Press—Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World—argues for an “ideational” explanation for the Great Enrichment 1800 to the present. The accidents of Reformation and Revolt in northwestern Europe 1517–1789 led to a new liberty and dignity for commoners—ideas called “liberalism”—which led in turn to an explosion of trade-tested betterment, “having a go.”
The earlier book in the trilogy, Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World (2010) had shown that materialist explanations such as saving or exploitation, don’t have sufficient economic oomph or historical relevance.
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