liberal policies and economic growth

For your enjoyment, here are more excerpts from Bourgeois Dignity.

Dignity and liberty still work. …. Shenzhen in mainland China, a suburb of Hong Kong, went from being a small fishing village to an eight-million-soul metropolis in two decades. it didn’t happen without some nasty rent-seeking by party officials and their friends, true. But out of such creative destruction are average incomes raised, to the benefit eventually of the poorest. Such a shift required a shift in rhetoric: stop jailing millionaires and start admiring them; stop overregulating markets and start letting people make deals, corrupt or not.

…. You can still hear people … [declare] confidently that the market of course needs to be closely regulated, or that trade needs to be fair, or that immigration must be restricted, or that jobs are to be created by governmental programs, or that businesspeople routinely cheat, or that markets are chaotic, or that the more complex an economy is, the more it needs government regulation, or that banking or financial speculation is robbery, or that governmental bureaucracies are always fair and efficient.  …. Such antibourgeois people … do not believe the bourgeois axiom that a deal between two free adults has a strong presumption in its favor ….

This seems to be extremely libertarian, but five pages later, McCloskey explains that she is very much a classical liberal (a follower of Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and others):

Liberty, I say again for the enlightenment of my libertarian colleagues, does not by itself suffice. The political scientist James Otteson asserts … “Those countries that respect private property and efficiently administer justice prosper, and those that do not do not. It is as simple as that.” Not quite, I would argue …. Prudence is not enough. We need to assent to bourgeois virtues.

Two chapters later McCloskey affirms this even more clearly:

[We should not celebrate] “greed is good,” which I argued at length in [my book] The Bourgeois Virtues is a childish and unethical rhetoric, however popular it has been on Wall Street and in the Department of Economics.

Deirdre N. McCloskey, Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World (University of Chicago Press, 2010), pp. 397, 402, 446.

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