The education of an economist

In the Financial Times this morning Deirdre McCloskey has a tantalising curtain-raiser for her forthcoming book, Bourgeois Equality: How Betterment Became Ethical, 1600-1848, and Then Suspect. Her argument is that it isn’t the accumulation of capital but rather innovation that is the engine of wealth, collective and individual:

“Taxing the rich, or capital, does not help the poor. It can throw a spanner into the mightiest engine for lifting up those below us, arising from a new equality, not of material worth but of liberty and dignity. Gini coefficients are not what matter; the Great Enrichment is.”

McCloskey has been on an anti-Piketty tour – see for example this by Evan Davis in The Spectator, and McCloskey herself speaking recently to the IEA. It’s intriguing that two of the economists most admired by progressive, anti-free-market, reforming economics people – McCloskey and Piketty – are in such disagreement.

The forthcoming book is the final volume in McCloskey’s trilogy, The Bourgeois Era, preceded by Vols 1 The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce and 2 Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World (I reviewed the latter for the New Statesman.)

Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World

Occasionally I might disagree with Prof McCloskey, but I love her books. One of my all-time favourites is How to Be Human (though an economist) and of course her book with Stephen Zilliak, The Cult of Statistical Significance: How the Standard Error Costs Us Jobs, Justice, and Lives.

How to Be Human: Through an Economist   The Cult of Statistical Significance: How the Standard Error Costs Us Jobs, Justice, and Lives (Economics, Cognition & Society)

I love even more the reading lists for her courses. Just look at the instructions for Economics 326: The History of Economic Thought, 2006, for example, or the graduate seminar Economics 263, or Economics for Humanists. It’s clear one would have to really work, but who wouldn’t want to be taught economics like this?

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One thought on “The education of an economist

  1. though she is not averse to taxing purely inherited wealth more heavily I think ? taxing capital in the right way could actually enhance innovation

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