Free Minds & Free Markets

How Freedom Made Us Rich

Economist Deirdre McCloskey explains the roots of "The Great Enrichment" of the last 200 years.

(Page 6 of 6)

McCloskey: Yeah, came out in 99.

Gillespie: Yeah, you discuss your experience with gender reassignment surgery and a host of related issue.

McCloskey: Yeah.

Gillespie: Actually, the surgery, in many ways, is the least of it, although it's all fascinating. What do you think about the ways in which questions of sexual identity, of personal identity, of gender, how have they played out since the publication of Crossing? Is it better, is it worse?

McCloskey: Well, not because of anything I've said or done, but because of the general liberal drift of the society in matters of personal, say sexual choice or gender choice or lots of other choices. I mean, after all, we're starting at last to legalize marijuana and my view is that the right to present in whatever gender you want, or no gender at all, is just a species of freedom that we've been with great waves, back and forth, but gradually improving since the 18th century. We freed slaves, we freed women, we freed gays, we freed colonial people, we freed people of color, we freed handicapped people, we freed ... I had, by the way, I had opinions on all of these. I was on the right side every time. I was a liberal, but I didn't do anything about it. Then, in 1995, God tapped me. My Episcopal God tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Okay, dear. This is your last chance," so I was public about it. It's a little hard to change gender in private anyway. I regarded it as a ... Actually, I didn't immediately so, I realized that it was an expression of my libertarianism as well.

Gillespie: Are you optimistic about the next 50 years? I guess another way of saying that, is Donald Trump, is Le Pen, is Corbin, or whatever, are they the end of something or are they the beginning of a kind of new chapter of awfulness?

McCloskey: I think they're the end. I'm an optimist. You don't change gender unless you're an optimist, but we got to be on our guard. We've got to do things, like have conversations like this and get people to listen to them because it's a danger. Young people, as I've said, have this tendency to socialism. Old people have this tendency to fascism. If you put the two together, you've nationalism, socialism, national socialism, and it's happened before. It's very dangerous. It's always present. We need to work against it. I'm going to go to Hungary for a few days in a couple of months and I'm so sad about Hungary and then, Poland seems to be going the same way, that they glory the politicians in Hungary, glory in being a liberal. They say it. They say, "We're going to do a liberal democracy," by which they mean fixed elections.

Gillespie: Well, we will leave it there. Thank you, Deirdre, so much for talking.

McCloskey: Thank you very much. I enjoyed it.

Gillespie: We have been talking with Deirdre McCloskey. She is an Emeritus Professor of Economics, History, English and Communication. I'm disappointed that you're not in several more departments.

McCloskey: I am, I was in Philosophy and Classics at.

Gillespie: Art history, maybe textiles.

McCloskey: No, but I've actually taught art history.

Gillespie: Yeah, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She's the author of most recently, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World. She's also a recent columnist. Again, thanks.

McCloskey: Thank you, dear.

Gillespie: For Reason, I'm Nick Gillespie.

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  • loveconstitution1789||

    Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness....

  • Jerryskids||

    That's the answer to the precedential question of "What makes us rich?" If I can sit out on the back porch of an evening, sipping a beer and watch the grandkids playing, knowing as I look around that "this is mine", I'm as rich as any king. YMMV, and that's okay - you pursue happiness in your way, me in mine.

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    A lot of leftists try going out of their way to explain why some people are poor without realizing the absurdity of that question. Poverty is the natural state of human existence and a thing we battled for thousands of years. What needs to be explained is wealth. They'll usually throw out some crap about exploitation, but that's easy to destroy: you're telling me there was no exploitation anywhere prior to the 17th century?

  • mtrueman||

    "Poverty is the natural state of human existence and a thing we battled for thousands of years. "

    Same with freedom. People have been subjugating themselves to all sorts of authority figures in return for a measure of security and material comfort.

  • mtrueman||

    I doubt you're as happy as the average Nigerian, happiest people on the planet.

  • Philadelphia Collins||

    unPlanned Parenthood disagrees.

  • SQRLSY One||

    ... and now, next upcoming, how OTHER new ideas made it all come crashing down! Communism, socialism, political correctness, and over-sized Government Almighty that promises to be ALL things to ALL people!

  • Jerryskids||

    The concept of sanitation and modern medicine created a vast over-supply in the labor market and somehow we dealt with that. Not to mention women entering the workforce. To people who croaked left and right from getting a drink of water or cutting themselves on a broken piece of glass or popping out a baby, modern human beings must seem like miraculous self-healing robots impervious to death and disease. How the heck can you expect to keep this many people employed when a substantial part of your workforce isn't dropping dead and creating a job opening every winter?

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Not sure how you prioritize your first and last sentences, if my sarcasmometer is busted ...

    The answer is quite simple, whether it is immigrants "stealing jobs" or newborns doing the same: all those new people are also new consumers and gladly create demand for all the new jobs.

  • Jerryskids||

    Maybe that last sentence should have been in quotes - I'm saying that to somebody from few hundred years ago, it might have been a puzzle as to how you could possibly expect to keep this many people employed for their whole long, healthy lives. Somehow no matter how cheaply and easily you produce everything anybody could possibly want, they find yet more things to add to the list of things they want and create new demands for new jobs. Look at agriculture for example. A mere few generations ago, everybody and their brother worked on farms and now it's all done by machinery. Where did all those millions of unemployed farm workers go? Among other things, they're making apps for iPhones that can remotely check to see how much milk you have in the fridge - and who could have imagined a hundred years ago that there'd ever be a market for such nonsense?

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Thanks for clarifying that. It was what I hoped you were saying, that yes the last sentence was a quote question, not a statement in conflict with the first one.

  • Bra Ket||

    I think we have seen a real problem when these life-supporting benefits of western development trickle down to parts of the world that still restrict the liberty part of the equation. We end up with the fastest population growth in the places least able or willing to absorb the new population.

    Nature on its own had handled the "life extension problem" reasonably well, with minimal reproductive rates for highly-skilled workers, and shrinking populations in developed countries.

  • mtrueman||

    "How the heck can you expect to keep this many people employed when a substantial part of your workforce isn't dropping dead and creating a job opening every winter?"

    If you're an employer, you can lay off employees. You don't need to keep them employed. That's why they're employees and not slaves.

  • Bgoptmst||

    Maybe I am being stereotypical ... but I bet she doesn't fit in well with the majority of the Chicago crowd.

  • mtrueman||

    She works at the University of Illinois, at Chicago. A truly second rate institution along the lines of George Mason University.

  • Sevo||

    As judged by a third-rate intellect.

  • OM Nullum gratuitum prandium||

    Excellent interview, Nick. I was fascinated by it. I didn't know Ms. McCloskey but now that I know I'm going to search for her book.

  • Stephen Mintz||

    Nice article pure informative and knowledgeable thank you for sharing it. visit here

  • SorinGhinescu||

    Very interesting point of view, that ideas, not something else, fuel the enrichment.
    There should be further research available through to demonstrate a strict causality between freedom empowerment and economic development. I will gladly read her book looking for such connections

  • SorinGhinescu||

    ... and it's a bit like the egg - hen problem

  • Johnandrews||

    Bourgeois Equality - nice title. I'm sure that this will be my next book to read. It seems to be a complex topic that contains a lot of facts from economics, history, sociology and other spheres. As for me, as for the freelancer who provides college essay writing service, this could be extremely helpful to make the papers for students. And some historical books even inspired me for writing the blog, and I'm looking forward to reading this one.

  • Mayur Sanitation||

    I am somewhat of a newbie to Internet marketing and blogging. So with that being said, I am very glad to that I found this blog post. I've heard talk of "How freedom made us rich" but never really knew what it was all about, however, I can say that I understand a lot better now. I plan to stay connected to your blog. Can't wait to see what you're going to write next. Thanks.


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