Deirdre McCloskey

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Deirdre McCloskey
Deirdre McCloskey (15579711609).jpg
McCloskey in 2014
Born Donald Nansen McCloskey
(1942-09-11) September 11, 1942 (age 72)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Alma mater Harvard University
Thesis Economic Maturity and Entrepreneurial Decline: British Iron and Steel, 1870-1913 (1970)
Known for Economic history of Britain

Deirdre N. McCloskey (born Donald McCloskey, September 11, 1942, Ann Arbor, Michigan)[1] is an American professor who is a Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She is also adjunct professor of Philosophy and Classics there, and for five years was a visiting Professor of philosophy at Erasmus University, Rotterdam. Since October 2007 she has received six honorary doctorates.[2] In 2013, she received the Julian L. Simon Memorial Award from the Competitive Enterprise Institute for her work examining factors in history that led to advancement in human achievement and prosperity. Her main research interests are (1) the origins of the modern world, (2) the misuse of statistical significance in economics and other sciences, and (3) the study of capitalism, among many others.


McCloskey earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Economics at Harvard University. Her dissertation on British iron and steel won in 1973 the David A. Wells Prize.[3]

In 1968, McCloskey became an assistant professor of economics at the University of Chicago, where she stayed for 12 years, gaining tenure as an associate professor in economics in 1975, and an associate professorship in history in 1979. Her work at Chicago is marked by her contribution to the cliometric revolution in economic history, and teaching generations of leading economists Chicago Price Theory, a course which culminated in her book The Applied Theory of Price.[4] In 1979, at the suggestion of Wayne Booth in English at Chicago, she turned to the study of rhetoric in economics. Later at the University of Iowa, McCloskey, the John Murray Professor of Economics and of History (1980–99), published The Rhetoric of Economics (1985) and co-founded with John S. Nelson, Allan Megill, and others "the rhetoric of inquiry,"[citation needed] and an institution and graduate program, the Project on Rhetoric of Inquiry. McCloskey has authored 16 books and some 360 articles in her many fields.[citation needed]

Her major contributions have been to the economic history of Britain (19th-century trade, modern history, and medieval agriculture) the quantification of historical inquiry (cliometrics), the rhetoric of economics, the rhetoric of the human sciences, economic methodology, virtue ethics, feminist economics, heterodox economics, the role of mathematics in economic analysis, and the use (and misuse) of significance testing in economics, and recently in her trilogy "The Bourgeois Era", the origins of the Industrial Revolution.[5]

She argued in the inaugural James M. Buchanan Lecture at George Mason University on April 7, 2006 that capitalism "is an ethically drenched human activity"[citation needed] which requires attention to all of the classical seven virtues, while economists usually focus exclusively on prudence. Her book The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce[6] was the first of the trilogy, published in 2006. The second, Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World was published in 2010, and the third, "The Treasured Bourgeoisie: How Markets and Innovation Became Ethical, 1600-1848, and then Suspect" will appear in 2014.[5]

Personal life[edit]

McCloskey is the eldest child of Robert McCloskey, a professor of government at Harvard University, and the former Helen Stueland, a poet.

Married for thirty years and the parent of two children, she transitioned from male to female in 1995, at the age of 53, writing about her experience in a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Crossing: A Memoir (1999, University of Chicago Press).[7] It is an account of her growing recognition (while a boy and man) of her female identity, and her transition—both surgical and social—into a woman (including her reluctant divorce from her wife). The book describes her new life, following sex-reassignment surgery, continuing her career as a female academic economist.

McCloskey advocates on behalf of the rights of persons and organizations in the LGBT community.[citation needed] She was also a key person in the Blanchard, Bailey, and Lawrence theory controversy and in the debate over J. Michael Bailey's book The Man Who Would Be Queen, both regarding the reasons why transsexuals desire a male to female transformation.[8]

McCloskey has described herself as a "literary, quantitative, postmodern, free-market, progressive Episcopalian, Midwestern woman from Boston who was once a man. Not 'conservative'! I'm a Christian libertarian."[9]


  • Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World (November 2010), University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0226556659
  • The Cult of Statistical Significance: How the Standard Error Costs Us Jobs, Justice, and Lives (January 2008), University of Michigan Press (with Stephen T. Ziliak). ISBN 978-0472050079
  • The Bourgeois Virtues : Ethics for an Age of Commerce (June 2006), University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0226556635
  • The Economic Conversation (2008) (with Arjo Klamer and Stephen Ziliak)
  • The Secret Sins of Economics (August 2002), University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0971757530
  • Crossing: A Memoir (September 1999). New edition University of Chicago Press, 2000, ISBN 978-0226556697
  • Measurement and Meaning in Economics: The Essential Deirdre McCloskey (1999) (edited by Stephen Ziliak)
  • The Vices of Economists, the Virtues of the Bourgeoisie (1996)
  • Knowledge and Persuasion in Economics (1994), Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521436038
  • Second Thoughts: Myths and Morals of U.S. Economic History (1993)
  • A Bibliography of Historical Economics to 1980 (1990)
  • If You're So Smart: The Narrative of Economic Expertise (1990)
  • The Consequences of Economic Rhetoric (1988)
  • The Writing of Economics (1987) reprinted as Economical Writing (2000)
  • Econometric History (1987)
  • The Rhetoric of the Human Sciences: Language and Argument in Scholarship and Public Affairs (1987)
  • The Rhetoric of Economics (1985 & 1998)
  • The Applied Theory of Price (1982 & 1985)
  • Enterprise and Trade in Victorian Britain: Essays in Historical Economics (1981)
  • Economic Maturity and Entrepreneurial Decline: British Iron & Steel, 1870–1913 (1973)
  • Essays on a Mature Economy: Britain after 1840 (1971)


  • "Modern Epistemology Against Analytic Philosophy: A Reply to Maki", Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. 33, No. 3 (September 1995), pp. 1319–1323
  • "The Rhetoric of Law and Economics", Michigan Law Review, Vol. 86, No. 4 (February 1988), pp. 752–767
  • "The Loss Function Has Been Mislaid: The Rhetoric of Significance Tests", American Economic Review, Vol. 75, No. 2, Papers and Proceedings of the Ninety-Seventh Annual Meeting of the American Economic Association (May 1985), pp. 201–205
  • "The Rhetoric of Economics", Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. 21, No. 2 (June 1983), pp. 481–517
  • "The Standard Error of Regressions" (with S. T. Ziliak). Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. 34 (1996 March), pp. 97–114.
  • "Size Matters: The Standard Error of Regressions in the American Economic Review" (with S. T. Ziliak). Econ Journal Watch, 1(2) (2004), pp. 331–338.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ CV
  2. ^ McCloskey, Deirdre (May 11, 2011). "Curriculum Vitae of Professor Deirdre Nansen McCloskey". Deirdre Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  3. ^ McCloskey, Deirdre. Measurement and Meaning in Economics: The Essential Deirdre McCloskey, ed. Stephen Thomas Ziliak (Cheltenham, UK, and Northampton, Mass., USA: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2001), 350.
  4. ^ McCloskey, Deirdre. "The Applied Theory of Price". PDF. Deirdre Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  5. ^ a b McCloskey, Deirdre. "Books by Deirdre McCloskey". Deirdre Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  6. ^ McCloskey, Deirdre (2006). Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an age of Commerce. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 
  7. ^ "From Donald to Deirdre: How a man became a woman — and what it says about identity". Reason. 1999–2012. Archived from the original on 2008-06-07. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  8. ^ Carey, Benedict (2007-08-21). "Criticism of a Gender Theory, and a Scientist Under Siege". New York Times. 
  9. ^ McCloskey, Deirdre. "Informal Biographical Remarks". Retrieved 3 January 2014. 

External links[edit]