Review of Dierdre McCloskey’s
Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics
Can’t Explain the Modern World
open for comments]
As Gary North pointed out
in his talk “How Come We’re So Rich?
[https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=wqmZXvDjEBA ] probably the mostimportant historical question is: Why did the world only recently, starting at some time between 1750and 1800, steadily become richer and richer? Why is 1950 radically different from 1800, but 1600 isfairly similar to 1800?Dierdre McCloskey's wrote "Bourgeois Dignity" to answer these questions. Gary North calls the bookprofound. The books shows how we live in an increasingly wealthy middle class world and how there hasbeen a vast increase in wealth since 1800. But why did this occur only since 1800, and why did it start in
Dierdre McCloskey’s book demolishes other explanations
Explain the Modern World,
and substitutes a compelling explanation of Bourgeois Dignity and Libertythan enables innovation.Given the importance of the topic, people
who don’t have time to read McCloskey’s
592 pages, mightlike to know: What is this book about?
How does McCloskey’s claim that economics can’t explain the
modern world relate to the Austrian school? What are potential problems or opportunities for moreresearch?
work deserves, and is getting, serious attention. It is an excellent, though partial,explanation for the mystery of why the world only recently, starting at some time between 1750 and1800, steadily became richer and richer. The answer is in the title,
being Bourgeoisbecame perceived as dignified, respectable, worthy, elevated, and virtuous. This enabled people toinnovate, which created wealth, transcending diminishing marginal returns. McCloskey uses the
592 pages to explain the title
“Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern
(The next book is supposed to explain the actual transformation.) While the book does seem abit wordy, it was easy to quickly read and understand.What is of particular interest is the subtitle
, “Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World.”
s work is an attack upon the current dead materialism of typical economic explanations. Herapproach and terminology is not Austrian, but it corresponds with the centrality in the Austrian Schoolof the living humanity of the human actor. McCloskey emphasizes the importance of language,innovation, and implicitly imagination in economics, and the failings of scientistic economics or
emphasis on the quantitative and exclusion of the qualitative.