Reprinted from Future of Freedom Foundation. Part 1 can be found here.
Leave me alone and I will make you rich – how the bourgeois treaty has enriched the world
By Deirdre Nansen McCloskey and Art Carden (University of Chicago Press, 2020).
McCloskey and Cardin have devoted many chapters to refuting misconceptions about the cause of great prosperity.
Many economists have interpreted this as a result of capital savings, but the authors disagree. When they point to that capital Necessary For progress, not enough. In most societies, capital exists beyond the means of subsistence, and no prosperity has yet begun. There will be no significant progress unless capital is used by the people to try new ideas and this requires a liberal “bourgeois agreement”.
How will the study be? No, that’s not the reason. In England and elsewhere, prosperity was not driven by “educated” people. Most had little formal education. Instead, they had practical knowledge gained from their work as mechanics, craftsmen and engineers. To give just one revealing example, the problem of longitude calculation was not solved by a prominent scientist but by John Harrison, a carpenter in rural Lincolnshire. Of course, McCloskey and Cardin are not opposed to the school but there is no reason why the government should subsidize it.
And in the context of education, the authors noted that one of the reasons why Britain developed and prospered faster than its long-time rival, France, was that its hardworking young men were more likely to work in business than in the military. This was part of the price paid by the French for the aggression of rulers like Louis XIV – talented people were turned away from the innovations of trade to meet the national ambitions of the kings.
Many statisticians are convinced that the reason Westerners became rich was because they used imperialism to exploit helpless tribals. This belief is useful to them because it paves the way for government programs to redistribute wealth internationally. Although the authors have nothing good to say about the imperialism of Spain, France, England, Portugal and other nations, they show that it has nothing to do with their economic progress. In stark contrast, imperialism has exploited resources that would otherwise have been used productively.
McCloskey and Cardin quote the great French liberal Jean-Baptiste as saying: [home] The subject is of no use. “Imperialism existed long before great prosperity and never improved the lives of regular people. Prosperity is not due to imperialism but to non-liberal countries nonetheless.
Another popular explanation for the wealth of some nations (especially the United States) is that it was due to slavery. Among “progressives” in recent years, it has become fashionable to maintain that slavery was the cause of society’s wealth, and since the injustice of slavery still has a lasting effect, government compensation programs must be adopted. The problem is that enslaving others is not a way to make big profits, much less a catalyst for economic growth. “Slavery,” the author writes, “is a common if horrible human institution. If slavery had led to great prosperity, it would have happened in the slave society of Greece or Rome.”
McCloskey and Carden then take a scalpel to academic literature that supports the notion that slavery enriched Western nations, found it erroneous, and concluded that the end of slavery was due to the efforts of liberals. The way – through trade.
For readers who may not yet be attracted to the “bourgeois agreement”, the authors compare it to the other four “deals” that people have imposed on them. There was the Blue Blood Deal, where people had to bow their heads, pay taxes and fight for the elite, who could ultimately protect them from the coercion of other elites. There is also the Bolshevik Treaty, the gist of which was (and is): “Do what you have been given, return the fruits of your labor for distribution by the Communist Party, and above all, do not criticize the party. Obey … and at least we won’t abandon you. “
Who doesn’t care about the deal? How about the Bismarckian deal, which bribes the poor to treat themselves with promises of public security, which is the essence of the modern welfare state. What people need is to “abandon the animation of adult life and become a child of government.” Or there is the bureaucratic pact, which turns economic life into an endless “Mother May I” game, a game of seeking permission from well-paid, high-ranking officials who have not created anything themselves. Obey all bureaucratic rules and regulations, pay your taxes and you can stay out of jail. Modern America, of course, is a mixture of Bismarckian treaties and bureaucratic treaties. Unfortunately, this appeals to many people who cannot imagine how much better they would be if we accepted the bourgeois agreement. This is the subject of the book persuading them.
People have benefited greatly from this happy accident that, in a few places, the bourgeoisie seized the treaty, giving those who had innovative ideas the freedom to try. But historically writers know that liberalism is not the norm. The United States has enjoyed liberalism for nearly two centuries, but the forces of statistics are firmly reclaiming themselves. They say that the wave of our prosperity will continue, provided that “we keep our intellect about ourselves.” To quote Hamlet, “There’s rubbing.” Many of our political and intellectual leaders have lost their minds.
COVID’s response to former liberal countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and others, has given a frightening look in the minds of many of our leaders who are eager to assert extraordinary power in the lives and minds of many. Ordinary people, who were happy to demand compliance with the mask mandate and other “security” restrictions. These are not people who are generous. It is clear that many of our fellow citizens are authoritarian at heart.
If liberal society is to be defended, there is no time to lose trying to shore up its philosophical foundations. Leave me alone A conceivable attempt to do so. It’s a simple, engaging reading that will make thoughtful statisticians question their premises. If you know someone like that, give him a copy.