On June 13th, the Manhattan Institute awarded the 13th annual Hayek Book Prize to Deirdre N. McCloskey for her book, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World.
Most people are stunningly better off than their ancestors. What produced the Great Enrichment of the past two centuries? Many factors played a role. Accumulated capital was necessary. So were improved institutions. Indeed, so, too, was the presence of oxygen, sunlight, and water. The difference maker: massively better ideas.
“Our [current] riches,” writes McCloskey in Bourgeois Equality, “were made not by piling brick on brick, bank balance on bank balance, but by piling idea on idea.” Ideas for electric motors and free elections, certainly. But more profoundly, argues McCloskey, the revolutionary ideas of the bourgeoisie—the ideas of equal liberty and dignity for ordinary folk.
Deirdre McCloskey is the Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Trained at Harvard as an economist, she has written 15 books, edited seven more, and has published some 360 articles on economic theory, economic history, philosophy, rhetoric, feminism, ethics, and law.
Howard Husock is vice president for research and publications at the Manhattan Institute, where he is also director of MI's social-entrepreneurship initiative. A City Journal contributing editor, he is the author of Philanthropy Under Fire (2013) and a contributor to Forbes.com.