Prof. Deidre McCloskey, Distinguished Professor of History and Economics (Emeritus) has been awarded the prestigious Hayek Book Prize given by the libertarian think tank Manhattan Institute. Her book Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions Enriched the World (University of Chicago Press, 2016) won the coveted prize. Awarded annually, the prize is awarded to a book that best embodies the intellectual tradition of Friedrich Hayek, the great Nobel economist, and a classic liberal who was influenced by John Stuart Mill, of whom he wrote a biography. Much like Hayek was left disillusioned with the two World Wars that made him wary of the state and its power, Prof. McCloskey similarly felt a sense of disillusionment having lived through the Vietnam, Second Iraq War and the result of the American Presidential Election last year. In Prof. McCloskey’s own words her book ‘argues with social, intellectual, political and literary history, framed within the structure of economic history that argues that liberalism gave ordinary people permission to have a go, as the British say’. While the idea of liberal thought originated in Holland, spread to England and other parts of the world, Prof. McCloskey says, ‘it resulted in an astonishing tsunami of ingenuity, 1800 to the present, now spreading worldwide.’ The economic liberalization of China and India is a result of the global liberal policies institutionalized by Great Britain.
Prof. McCloskey’s award-winning book is part of a trilogy. The first book was called the Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce (2006), which was philosophical and theological, with a dose of literary and social history, and Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World (2010) which was a monograph on economic history. Speaking about her books, Prof. McCloskey surmises, ‘the whole 1,700 pages in total is an “apology” (the Greek word for a legal defense) for “capitalism” (a word I detest) as radically misleading as to what is going on: it was not capital accumulation that made us well off, but rather trade-tested betterment inspired by new liberalism, slowly liberating people to have a go.’