CAIF and CEEE to host Deirdre McCloskey


October 7, 2019

Two NMU organizations will cohost an award-winning economist, historian and transgender advocate on-campus next month, when she defends her perspective in on-going global conversation surrounding the project of liberalism.

The Center for Academic and Intellectual Freedom and Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship welcome Deirdre McCloskey for, “It’s Good to Be Rich: Why Liberalism Works,” a lecture and discussion concerning how the world has gotten wealthier since 1800, and will continue to get richer, to the benefit of everyone.

“We’re excited about partnering with our colleagues in the CEEE. They do amazing work,” CAIF Director Gabriel Noah Brahm said. “We’re proud to join with them to bring McCloskey, one of the world’s leading intellectuals, to NMU, a campus that’s a leader in viewpoint diversity. This kind of synergy is what we need today—in order to both revitalize the humanities and social sciences, and help heal the divisions in our polarized political culture, by modeling civility in public conversation about important matters of common concern.”

A part of the CEEE’s “Your Economic Health” lecture series, McCloskey’s talk and subsequent Q&A will take place Thursday October 24 at 7 p.m., in Jamrich Hall, Room 1100.

The event coincides with the October 15 release of McCloskey’s newest book, Why Liberalism Works: How True Liberal Values Produce a Freer, More Equal, Prosperous World for All.

In that much-anticipated volume, McCloskey argues for a return to a “humane true liberalism,” conceived in the eighteenth century by philosophers like Locke, Smith and Voltaire. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, she draws on original texts, interviews, news articles and contemporary sociopolitical events to craft an optimistic call to action that transcends academic-departmental boundaries.

Her ultimate plea is that readers turn methods of persuasion, often used by governments and other ideological players, onto themselves.

“I want you to become less self-satisfied in your progressivism or your conservatism or even your relaxed middle-of-the-road-ism—a political identity whatever it may be acquired at age twenty or so and never seriously questioned thereafter,” McCloskey said in the preface of the new book.

Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English and Communications at the University of Illinois at Chicago; author of 19 books and nearly 400 scholarly and popular pieces on economic theory, economic history, philosophy, rhetoric, feminism, ethics and law; she is sometimes regarded as a “conservative” economist.

But, McCloskey insists she is not a conservative.

“I’m a Christian classical liberal,” McCloskey has said of her ideological identity. “A literary, quantitative, postmodern, free-market, progressive-Episcopalian, ex-Marxist, Midwestern woman from Boston who was once a man.”

She is perhaps best known for her Bourgeois Era trilogy—a comprehensive economic-historical account of the market economy that explores virtue, “humanonomics” and the bourgeoisie across time and culture. The third and final book of the series, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World, was published in 2016.

Most important, the event demonstrates a commitment to viewpoint diversity on campus—a principle at the core of the CAIF’s founding and its mission.

“These talks not only facilitate an exchange of ideas between leading intellectuals and the university community, but they showcase as well a model of civil dialogue and debate often missing from colleges and universities these days,” CAIF Assistant Director Timothy Eggert said. “Two divergent views of the same topic presented by two different speakers within a year of each other. That’s genuine viewpoint diversity.”

According to Eggert, what really matters is that the campus community gets exposure to contrasting concepts and has the chance to respond.

These events are not “workshops” presided over by “experts” imparting “skills,” but open forums for the exchange of ideas. That’s why McCloskey’s talk comes so soon after the CAIF hosted University of Notre Dame Professor of Political Science, Patrick Deneen last March, when he discussed themes related to his 2018 book, Why Liberalism Failed. That same year, McCloskey reviewed the book for the summer issue of Modern Age.

“The Center’s mission is to promote serious reflection on the issues of our day, by creating spaces where divergent and dissident viewpoints can respectfully contend, without fear of censorship and regardless of ‘politically correct’ ideology,” Brahm said. “Hosting back-to-back McCloskey, the Episcopalian classical-liberal, and Deneen, the conservative Catholic, really symbolizes what the CAIF stands for. We’re ecumenical.” 

McCloskey’s latest book is now available for pre-order. More details about the event can be found here.

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