Liberalism: Not Investment, Exploitation, or Christianity Made us Rich

May 27, 2021 | Announcements, News & Media

Distinguished US economist and historian Deirdre Nansen McCloskey to deliver third Ramsay Lecture for 2021

Sydney, Thursday 27 May 2021: The Ramsay Centre is proud to announce that distinguished US historian and economist Professor Deirdre McCloskey will deliver our third Ramsay Lecture for 2021.

Deirdre McCloskey is Distinguished Professor Emerita of Economics and of History, and Professor Emerita of English and of Communication, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Trained at Harvard in the 1960s as an economist, she has written twenty books and some four hundred academic articles on economic theory, economic history, philosophy, rhetoric, statistical theory, feminism, ethics, and law.

In her Ramsay Lecture, ‘Liberalism: Not Investment, Exploitation, or Christianity Made us Rich’, Professor McCloskey will posit that the central question in economics and world history for the past two centuries is ‘why are we so rich?’ She will argue that she has solved that question: ‘we’re rich because we’re free’.

Professor McCloskey cites the gigantic increase in income per head across the globe ‘since the time of Adam Smith’, which in some countries has amounted to as much as 4000 per cent, and which has lifted billions out of poverty. From as recently as 1960 onwards that growth has changed the global ratio of people living in extreme poverty from 4 out of 5 billion, to 1 out of 7 billion, she claims.

In ruling out other explanations for this extraordinary global income growth Professor McCloskey considers investment and capital cumulation, exploitation, the invention of agriculture, the industrial revolution and/or the advent of technology.

Professor McCloskey argues that none of these factors alone can explain the increase. Instead, she argues it is liberty, and the ideas that liberty makes possible that has enabled us to advance our standards of living; a ‘new permission against ancient hierarchies that makes people innovative’.

Professor McCloskey taught for twelve years at the University of Chicago in the Economics Department in what she says were ‘its glory days’, but now describes herself as a “literary, quantitative, postmodern, free-market, progressive-Episcopalian, ex-Marxist, Midwestern woman from Boston who was once a man. ‘Not ‘conservative’! I’m a Christian classical liberal.”

Her most recent popular books are Why Liberalism Works: How True Liberal Values Produce a Freer, More Equal, Prosperous World for All (Yale University Press, 2019) and with Art Carden Leave Me Alone and I’ll Make You Rich: The Bourgeois Deal (University of Chicago Press, 2020). Also, in 2019 the Chicago Press published a third edition of her classic manual on style, Economical Writing, and a 20th-anniversary re-issue of Crossing: A Transgender Memoir, with a new Afterword.

The Ramsay Centre was created with an endowment from the late Paul Ramsay AO, founder of Ramsay Health Care, to promote a deeper understanding of Western civilisation. The Ramsay Lecture series hosts speakers from all walks of life who have important and interesting perspectives relating to the world and our western heritage.

Due to COVID-19, this Ramsay Lecture event is recorded. It will be available via our website as both a video and podcast from Thursday 03 June.

Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 098/

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