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©Deirdre Nansen McCloskey | COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL

Talks That Professor McCloskey Gives,
Public Relations Material, Photos

Deirdre McCloskey welcomes major speaking engagements on the topics described here. The more directly the assignment fits her current writing—the history of the bourgeois era, statistical significance, humanomics, gender crossing, the state of economic science—the better for all concerned.
        Near Chicago she is flexible. Beyond Chicago she is limited to exceptional assignments: honorary degrees, keynoting, endowed lecture series bearing on her current research. "Distant conferences are a delight," she says, "but to compensate for the opportunity cost they need to entail honor or learning proportional to the distance traveled!" Business class is required.
        She is interested in people-seeing and conversation, not sight-seeing and leisure. Although her specialty is speaking to academic audiences, she is willing to give more popular lectures to general, non-academic audiences—preferably large and interested audiences. (She requests a lapel microphone; taping and recording is permitted.) Her fees are moderate, especially for cash-strapped organizations such as graduate-student associations and state universities. On visits to campuses she prefers to be kept busy in as many departments as can be arranged, and especially in faculty seminars: economics, history, English, communications, statistics, philosophy, gender studies, political science, philosophy, business. About the more usual pattern of a single lecture with most of the day spent "resting," she says, "I can 'rest' in the grave!" Her idea of the Resurrection is chatting over meals with faculty or graduate students or well-prepared undergraduates about ideas.

The main academic talks Professor McCloskey gives these days are three (she likes to talk on matters she's currently working on, or intends shortly to get back to):

1.) "Why Economics Can't Explain the Coming of the Modern World"

…which introduces people to the trilogy with the University of Chicago Press about capitalism, its history, its functioning, its ethics: The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce (2006); Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World (2010); and forthcoming April, 2016, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World. For economists, historians, and the general public.

2.) "The Bankruptcy of Statistical Significance"

…criticizing the gross misuse of statistical as against substantive "significance" (much of her writing on this has been with Stephen Ziliak, such as their book of 2008, The Cult of Statistical Significance). The talk is aimed at applied econometricians and other users of statistical methods.

3.) "Virtue Ethics in a Bourgeois World"

…a summary of The Bourgeois Virtues (2006), directed at ethicists in schools of business, but relevant to philosophers and economists.

Other Talks:

"Crossing: Notes of a Novice Woman"

Deirdre McCloskey, internationally known economist, historian, and rhetorician, was until 1995 "Donald." She describes her adventures—sad, funny, terrifying, illuminating of gender roles—in crossing genders, from her 1999 memoir, Crossing (1999), a New York Times Notable Book.
[Audience: general public; and academics in women's studies, sociology, psychology, education; women's groups especially, but it also works with general audiences and with college GLBT clubs]

"A Novice Woman in Academic Life"

Deirdre McCloskey starts from her unusual perspective a discussion about being a woman and being a professor. McCloskey, twelve years a professor at the University of Chicago and nineteen at Iowa, now teaches economics, history, English, communication at three universities. She was until 1995 "Donald." What changed? How can academic life become more open to women?
[Audience: Women faculty groups; women grad students]

"Free Market Feminism: A Contradiction?"

Deirdre McCloskey, a well-known "Good Old Chicago School" economist, thinks it is not a contradiction. The market, she argues, has been the chief liberator of women; and the government has been most often a men's club.
[Audience: women's studies, including undergrads but especially graduate students and faculty]

"A Conversation with Deirdre McCloskey"

Deirdre McCloskey describes herself as a "postmodern, free-market, quantitative, rhetorical, Anglican, transsexual, Midwestern, European, female economist -- that's why I haven't got any friends!" Is such a mixture possible? McCloskey is ocular proof that it is. She says, "It's like believing in infant baptism. Not only do I believe in it, I've seen it."
[Audience: undergraduate and faculty audiences]

"Learning to Love Globalization"

Deirdre McCloskey, a well-known economist and economic historian, argues in favor of capitalism, globalization, and modern economic growth. She views them as the hope for the world's poor and the promise of the century before us.
[Audience: popular; and broad, non-technical academic]

"The Rhetoric of Some Mathematical Sciences"

Deirdre McCloskey is well known as one of the originators of the "rhetoric of inquiry," a broad-based use since the early 1980s of an ancient tradition to understand scholarship and public affairs. She here discusses her latest thoughts on how literary and communications theory can illuminate-and improve-science and scholarship.
[Audience: academic, especially communication studies or mathematical economics]

"Theology and Capitalism"

Deirdre McCloskey describes herself as an "Anglican, statistical, literary, post-modern free-market economist who was once a Trotskyist, Keynesian, positivist agnostic." Can God and Mammon (Aramaic: "money") lie down together? Says McCloskey, Yes, as even Jesus of Nazareth affirmed.
[Audience: church audiences in the popular version; theologians and biblical scholars in the academic version]

Formal Biography

Deirdre Nansen McCloskey has been since 2023 a Senior Fellow and holder of the Isaiah Berlin Chair in Liberal Thought at the Cato Institute in Washington DC.  From 2015 she has been at the University of Illinois at Chicago an Emerita Distinguished Professor of Economics and of History, and Emerita Professor of English and of Communication, and Emerita Adjunct Professor of Classics and of Philosophy. Trained at Harvard as an economist, she has written twenty-five books and edited nine more, and has published some five hundred articles on economic history, economic theory, statistical theory, rhetoric, literary criticism, feminism, epistemology, ethics, academic policy, legal theory, and liberalism. She taught for twelve years in the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago, as a tenured Associate Professor from 1975, and during her he last year there also in History.  She describes herself now as a “postmodern, free-market, literary and statistical progressive Episcopalian feminist woman and classical liberal Aristotelian from Boston, Chicago, Iowa, and Washington DC who was once a man.” 

Before 2000 her best-known books were The Rhetoric of Economics (1985’ 1998) and Crossing: A Memoir (1999).  Her books since 2000 are How to be Human* *Though an Economist (2001), Measurement and Meaning in Economics (Stepha. Ziliak, ed.; 2001), The Secret Sins of Economics (2002), The Cult of Statistical Significance: How the Standard Error Costs Us Jobs, Justice, and Lives [with Ziliak; 2008], and a third edition of her classic manual on style, Economical Writing, (2019). Her most important scientific work is the trilogy on the Bourgeois Era, published by the University of Chicago Press, The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce (2006), Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World (2010), Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World (2016), Why Liberalism Works: How True Liberal Values Produce a Freer, More Equal, Prosperous World for All (2019), and with Art Carden Leave Me Alone and I’ll Make You Rich: The Bourgeois Deal (2020), based on the trilogy.  She extended it into a defense of liberalism, for instance a critique of industrial planning, The Myth of the Entrepreneurial State (with Alberto Mingardi, 2020).

Her scientific work has been largely on economic history, at first especially British and now international. She earlier wrote on British economic "failure" in the 19th century, British trade and growth, English open field agriculture and enclosure, and the international gold standard.  The Bourgeois Era trilogy recounts Dutch and British economic and social history in aid of understanding the Great Enrichment since 1776, the world moving from $2 a day per human to $50. Liberty, she claims, not investment or exploitation, caused the it.  

Her methodological books include The Rhetoric of Economics (1985; 1998), If You're So Smart: The Narrative of Economic Expertise (1990), and Knowledge and Persuasion in Economics (Cambridge 1994), and a recent pair on similar topics, Bettering Humanomics: A New, and Old, Approach to Economic Science (2021) and Beyond Positivism, Behaviorism, and Neo-Institutionalism in Economics (2022).They discuss the maladies of positivism in the social sciences, and the promise of a rhetorically sophisticated philosophy of science. In her later work she has turned to ethics and to a philosophical-historical apology for modern economies, and especially recently a defense of a liberalism of “equality of permission.” The 2021 and 2022 books introduce a “humanomics,” which is to say an economics acknowledging the uniquely human capability of language.

Informal Autobiographical Remarks

Deirdre Nansen McCloskey is Senior Fellow and holds the Isaiah Berlin Chair of Liberal Thought at the Cato Institute in Washington DC.  From 2015 at the University of Illinois at Chicago she has been Distinguished Professor Emerita of Economics and of History, and Professor Emerita of English and of Communication. Trained at Harvard in the 1960s as an economist, she has written twenty-five books and some five hundred academic and popular articles on economic theory, economic history, philosophy, rhetoric, statistics, feminism, ethics, law, and liberalism.

She taught for twelve years at the University of Chicago in the Economics Department during its glory days, but now describes herself as a “literary, quantitative, postmodern, free-market, progressive-Episcopalian, ex-Marxist, Midwestern woman from Boston who was once a man. Not ‘conservative’! I’m a Christian classical liberal, practicing humanomics.”

Her most recent popular books are Why Liberalism Works: How True Liberal Values Produce a Freer, More Equal, Prosperous World for All (2019) and with Art Carden Leave Me Alone and I’ll Make You Rich: The Bourgeois Deal (2020). Also in 2019 the University of Chicago Press issued a 20th-anniversary re-issue of Crossing: A Transgender Memoir, with a new Afterword. But she’s technical and quantitative, too. For example, with Stephen Ziliak in 2008 she wrote The Cult of Statistical Significance, widely noted, which shows that null hypothesis tests of “significance” are, in the absence of a substantive loss function, meaningless. 

Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World (2016) was the final volume of the Bourgeois Era trilogy. It argues for an “ideational” explanation of the Great Enrichment of 2,500 percent after 1776 in places like Britain and Japan and Finland, and now China and India. The accidents of Reformation and Revolt in northwestern Europe 1517–1789 led to a new liberty and dignity for commoners—ideas called “liberalism” in the proper sense, an equality of permission.  Liberalism led to an explosion of commercially tested betterment, “having a go.” The second 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 or legal change, don’t have enough economic oomph or historical particularity to explain the Enrichment. The alleged explanations are merely ancillary to the powerful new ideology of “innovism”—McCloskey’s name for the ill-named “capitalism.” And the Enrichment did not corrupt our immortal souls—the inaugural book in the trilogy, The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce (2006), had established contrary to the clerisy anti-bourgeois clamor since 1848 the bourgeoisie is pretty good ethically speaking, and that commercially tested betterment is by no means the worst of ethical schools. The trilogy and her subsequent writing looks forward to a world of universal dignity and prosperity created by liberal innovism.

PR Bullet Points

McCloskey featured in the Boston Globe, Sunday, January 16, 2011

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