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I really enjoyed the essay on McCloskey! Thanks! I’m very excited about her work.

I think one of the main hindrances to economists arriving at McCloskey’s destination has been the insistence on biological evolution as the model for economic development. That model depends upon random events plus survival of the fittest. It has no guide.

Economic development is a creationist’s story: it is guided by the intelligence of human choices.

McCloskey masterfully destroys other theories of development. As little as I know about the subject, I knew decades ago that the dominant theories attributed Western development to advantages that were not unique to the West. At the time of Western Europe’s take off, China and the Ottoman Empire held all of the advantages that traditional theories claims caused the Western take off, but they fail to explain why those same advantages didn’t cause an Ottoman take off.

Others have nibbled around the edges of McCloskey’s feast, for example, “Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress” (2001) by Lawrence E. Harrison (Author), Samuel P. Huntington, which initially got me thinking along McCloskey’s lines.

Also, doesn’t McCloskey somewhat rehabilitate Weber?

Finally, McCloskey reminds me of a section of Pieter de la Court’s “Interest of Holland”, published in 1662. In it, de la Court reminds the Dutch of the rule of nobles before the Republic in which the nobility would steal the land of commoners by trumping up charges against wealthy commoners and bribing the judge to find them guilty. The commoner would be executed and his land given to the “noble” person.

According to de la Court, the practice was common and few people objected. Everyone understood that the nobility lived by different rules. De la Court seemed to understand that the ending of such abuses by the nobility encouraged commoners to invest instead of hiding their wealth.

I bought The Bourgeois Values and Bourgeois Dignity for myself for Christmas and started reading the first one a month ago. So far, I have only reached paged 130 because I am so very disappointed. I will read your review though.

So far I have found these glaring and absurd errors:

1) Evolutionary Psychology in general, and Steven Pinker in particular, is classified as "screw you" morality. She even does this based on second hand information.
This is doubly absurd as she refers approvingly to von Mises and Hayek in volume 2, authors who are imbued with evolutionary thinking. Just read Hayek's LLL, the beginning of volume 1 and the Epilogue.

2) She claims that people need security to be bold. This is absurd, just compare with how dangerous life was to our ancestors (25 roughly being the average life expectancy) and how courageous they were.
She illustrates this with a quote from Montesquieu on how scared people without security are. I believe I have tracked down this quote. It refers in particular to “a savage” that was found living alone in the forests outside of Hanover and put on display in England during the reign of George I (part I, book I, chapter II). In today’s terms, the recluse was a homeless person, quite possibly suffering from mental illness.

3) She claims that Rousseau's "General Will" is the will of the majority. This just about the opposite of what Rousseau writes in the Social Contract. The General Will is what people would decide if they did not communicate with one another and then reported what they had come up with. He explicitly says that "La volonté générale n'est pas la volonté de tous", The General Will is not the Will of All. I am quoting from the top of my head here, so Rousseau might have formulated it somewhat differently.

I am just wondering what other nonsense is in there, stuff of which I am not aware.

At the moment, I feel the book is just well formulated nonsense. But I will reread it at some stage and see if I can get any further.

Thanks for posting up these links.

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