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A behavioral approach to the political and economic inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations

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  • Boettke, Peter

Abstract

Deirdre McCloskey’s Bourgeois Dignity (2010) represents another breakthrough work in her career, and the second volume in a multi-volume work on the economic and intellectual history of western civilization. In a sense, the subtitle of the book explains well what this volume is all about--why economics can’t explain the modern world. An important modifier would be – modern economics can’t explain the modern world – because much of what McCloskey argues is the resurrection of an older argument that was associated with classical liberal political economists from Smith, Bastiat, Mises, Hayek and Friedman. Fundamentally, she reasserts the power of ideas to shape the world. McCloskey’s narrative is simple and compelling -- materialist stories (whether technological, genetic, or institutional) do not work; incentive based stories do not provide a complete picture of why some countries grew rich while others remained poor, let alone for the exact timing for the divergence in the wealth and poverty of nations with the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th century. McCloskey proposes that incentive based explanations must reside within a broader narrative that addresses values and beliefs, as well as institutions, technologies, and material conditions. In doing so, McCloskey paves the way for a true behavioral approach to a political and economic inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 32376.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:32376

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Keywords: Economic History; Economic Development; Industrial Revolution;

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  1. Peter J. Boettke, 2007. "DEIRDRE McCLOSKEY'S " THE BOURGEOIS VIRTUES: ETHICS FOR AN AGE OF COMMERCE"," Economic Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(1), pages 83-85, 03.
  2. Kenneth E. Boulding, 1971. "After Samuelson, Who Needs Adam Smith?," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 3(2), pages 225-237, Fall.
  3. Deirdre McCloskey, 2004. "The Bourgeois Virtues," World Economics, World Economics, Economic & Financial Publishing, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE, vol. 5(3), pages 1-16, July.
  4. Smith, Vernon L., 2002. "Constructivist and Ecological Rationality in Economics," Nobel Prize in Economics documents 2002-7, Nobel Prize Committee.
  5. Boettke, Peter J. & Coyne, Christopher J., 2005. "Methodological individualism, spontaneous order and the research program of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 145-158, June.
  6. McCloskey, Deirdre N., 2006. "The Bourgeois Virtues," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 0, number 9780226556635, June.
  7. McCloskey, Deirdre N., 2010. "Bourgeois Dignity," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, number 9780226556659, June.
  8. Douglass C. North, 2005. "Introduction to Understanding the Process of Economic Change
    [Understanding the Process of Economic Change]
    ," Introductory Chapters, Princeton University Press.
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Cited by:
  1. Boettke, Peter & Coyne, Christopher, 2011. "The debt-inflation cycle and the global financial crisis," MPRA Paper 32091, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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