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2016 Upton Forum - Deirdre Nansen McCloskey

Upton 2016 - Deirdre Nansen McCloskey

Deirdre Nansen McCloskey taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago from 2000 to 2015 in economics, history, English, and communication. A well-known economist and 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. She is known as a "conservative" economist, Chicago-School style (she taught in the Economics Department there from 1968 to 1980, and in History), but protests 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). Her latest book, out in April 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. The first book in the Bourgeois Era trilogy, The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce (2006), had established that, contrary to the clamor of the clerisy left and right since 1848, the bourgeoisie is pretty good, and that trade-tested betterment is not the worst of ethical schools. 

Before The Bourgeois Virtues her best-known books were The Rhetoric of Economics (University of Wisconsin Press 1st ed. 1985; 2nd ed. 1998) and Crossing: A Memoir (Chicago 1999), which was a New York Times Notable Book.


Forum Events

Panel discussion: "The Ideas and Influence of Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, I"

  • Bob Elder, Allen-Bradley Endowed Chair in Economics & Department Chair of Samuel Campbell Department of Economics, Beloit College.
  • Laura Grube'08, Assistant Professor, Samuel Campbell Department of Economics, Beloit College; co-author with Virgil Storr'96 & Stefanie Haeffele-Balch of Community Revival in the Wake of Disaster: Lessons in Local Entrepreneurship.
  • Chuck Lewis, Professor of English, Director of the Writing Program, Beloit College, author of A Coincidence of Wants: The Novel and Neoclassical Economics.
  • Catherine M. Orr, Professor and Chair of Critical Identity Studies, Beloit College.
  • Response: Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, 2016 Miller Upton Scholar.

Panel discussion: "The Ideas and Influence of Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, II"

  • Emily Chamlee-Wright, Provost and Dean of the College, Washington College; Associate Dean, Beloit College (2010-2012); Elbert H. Neese Professor of Economics, Beloit College (2007-2012); Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor of Economics, Beloit College (1993-2007); her published books are: Liberal Learning and the Art of Self Governance; How We Came Back: Voices from Post-Katrina New Orleans with Nona Martin Storr and Virgil Storr'96; The Cultural and Political Economy of Recovery: Social Learning in a Post-Disaster Environment: The Political Economy of Hurricane Katrina and Community Development  co-editor with Virgil Storr'96. Culture and Enterprise: The Development, Representation, and Morality of Business, with Don Lavoie, and The Cultural Foundations of Economic Development.
  • Joshua Hall, Associate Professor of Economics & Co-Director Center for Free Enterprise, West Virginia University; Elbert H. Neese, Jr. Professor of Economics, Beloit College (2012-2013), Assistant Professor of Economics, Beloit College (2007-2013). His published books are:  Economic Freedom of the World annual report, co-editor; Homer Economicus: The Simpsons and Economics. He is the editor of Journal of Entrepreneurship and Public Policy and managing editor of Journal of Economics and Finance Education.
  • Virgil Storr'96,  Senior Research Fellow and Senior Director of Academic and Student Programs, Mercatus Center; Research Associate Professor of Economics, Department of Economics, George Mason University; Don C. Lavoie Senior Fellow in the F.A. Hayek Program in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, Mercatus Center, George Mason University. His published books are:  How We Came Back: Voices from Post-Katrina New Orleans with Emily Chamlee-Wright and Nona Martin Storr; Community Revival in the Wake of Disaster: Lessons in Local Entrepreneurship with Laura Grube'08 & Stefanie Haeffele-Balch; The Cultural and Political Economy of Recovery: Social Learning in a Post-Disaster Environment: The Political Economy of Hurricane Katrina and Community Development  co-editor with Emily Chamlee-Wright; Understanding the Culture of Markets; and Enterprising Slaves & Master Pirates.
  • Response: Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, 2016 Miller Upton Scholar.

Panel discussion: "The Ideas and Influence of Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, III"

  • Joel Mokyr, Robert H. Strotz Professor of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Economics and History, Northwestern University; Sackler Professorial Fellow, Eitan Berglas School of Economics, University of Tel Aviv. His published books include: A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy; The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain 1700-1850 ; The Invention of Enterprise: Entrepreneurship from Ancient Mesopotamia to Modern Times with William J. Baumol and David S. Landes; The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy; The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress; Twenty Five Centuries of Technological Change: An Historical Survey; Why Ireland Starved: An Analytical and Quantitative Study of Irish Poverty, 1800-1851; Industrialization in the Low Countries, 1795-1850.
  • Bart Wilson, Professor of Economics and Law, Economic Science Institute Donald P. Kennedy Endowed Chair in Economics and Law, Chapman University. Associate Editor of: Southern Economic Journal; Review of Austrian Economics; Review of Behavioral Economics.
  • Stephen T. Ziliak is Professor of Economics and Faculty Member of the Social Justice Studies Program at Roosevelt University, Chicago, where as a faculty member he served on the Board of Trustees from 2010 to 2013; Conjoint Professor, Faculty of Business and Law, University of Newcastle (Australia); Faculty Affiliate, Graduate Program in Economics, Colorado State University, and Faculty Member of The Angiogenesis Foundation (Cambridge, MA).
  • Response: Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, 2016 Miller Upton Scholar.

The June and Edgar Martin Memorial Lecture

Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, 2016 Miller Upton Scholar