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An Economics that Makes Everyone Rich? Toward Leave Me Alone

Updated: Jan 6


Alternatively: Leave Me Alone So I Can Take and Keep Me Rich.


(Updated January 2024) The recent book by McCloskey and Carden (2020) titled Leave Me Alone and I’ll Make You Rich: How the Bourgeois Deal Enriched the World points to how wealth on the Spaceship Earth on which we Travel, together, around the Sun every 365 days or so, well, it has increased dramatically. The claim is a 3000 percent increase Spaceship-wide since 1800, and, even a greater increase in the more highly developed countries like the US. It is like $3/day to $33/day for each Traveler on the Spaceship, and $3-6 to $130 in the US. The story is about the Great Enrichment.


And, what is the Bourgeois Deal that gave rise to the Great Enrichment? It all starts to move rapidly toward the Bourgeois Deal in the 1700s. The Deal came to hold rather dramatic changes in ethics and rhetoric and ideology --- new Ideas. As the book proclaims “… it was the new permission to have a go, inspired by the shocking new ethics and rhetoric and ideology of liberalism. Give ordinary folk the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—against ancient tyranny (and modern regulation, industrial planning, and occupational licensure)—and they commence thinking up all manner of new ideas. They think up an ice cream store here, a frontier farm there, an iPhone at last. Then in a liberal economy they have permission to put them into action, the billions of novelties, tiny and titanic, that liberal innovism yielded, 1800 to the present (pp. 86-87).” So, a new word, a coining: Innovism, which is driven by Ideas. It replaces the old and tired Capitalism, which is driven by Capital. Ok, Innovism is good.


The book downplays the role of the Government in the Great Enrichment: “The leviathan state, we suggest, is … obsolete, whether run by former kings or present tyrants… (p. 6).” And (p. 10): “The result of the new liberal idea (which downplays the role of the Government no matter if it is good or bad, ethical or unethical) was that after 1800 or so, a tsunami of betterment rolled over the West and eventually over much of the rest. The betterment is properly called the Great Enrichment. Railways. Mass schooling. Skyscrapers. Electricity. Sewage treatment. Universities. Antibiotics. Containerization. Computers. In the places that have experienced it fully, the average Jack or Jill, whose great-great-grandparents were starkly impoverished, lives a life that is connected, wealthy, far from nasty, peaceful, and by historical standards amazingly long. Not Hobbesian (not solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short). Wow.” Ok, good, and, well, maybe the Market can do only good things, even though to a MetaEcon (like me!) it seems it is about good balance in a joint Market & Government, each doing what each does best, and each essential to the other.


Also, the causes of the Great Enrichment were largely (p. 171) “… a cluster of happy accidents between 1517 and 1789, embodied in the four Rs … reading, reformation, revolt, and revolution … (all of which led to) the fifth R, a revaluation of commerce and betterment, plain in literature and political thought … culminating in the Bourgeois Deal (which) was slowly expanded to all classes… (fueled by) a liberal Protestantism and even a liberal Catholicism supporting ordinary people having a go.” Ok, got it.


Now, regarding the alternative title added by a MetaEcon (me!) using Metaeconomics: Leave Me Alone So I Can Take and Keep Me Rich, well, the book more or less ignores that possibility, except in admitting, giving some hope, on p. 68: “We are not suggesting that every single thing about the bourgeois world is hunky dory or that everything the bourgeoisie does is Good and Right and Ethical. Many a businessperson is an ethical shell or worse. But the same is true of many a politician or professor or priest or an old and ignorant ruler of a traditional village in South Africa, or the congregation and the planter in Sellers’s vision of colonial and early national America.”


Yes, good (ethical) and bad (unethical) people are in both Market & Government, including for the latter people in the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Food and Drug Administration, and the US Center for Disease Control, Humans all. And, all Humans have problems with self-command (as Adam Smith made clear). Sometimes regulation and control is needed to better ensure I’ll Make You Rich. As I said, some hope.


And on mental images: The balance scale of Economic Justice in the Image, points to how taking and keeping to keep me rich, well, it crashes the economy: The scale being tipped too far to the Right (Unbounded Individualism/Libertarianism) in this case. It can also be tipped too far to the Left (Unbounded Communitarianism). As a MetaEcon makes clear, it is about striking good balance in Individualism & Communitarianism, I & We, Person & Community, Scroogism & Socialism, Self & Other-interest, Market & Government with said balance essential to ensuring that Leave Me Alone and I'll Make You Rich actually works: Reality, please.


And, perhaps most importantly, the book ends with the following observations: "(Adam Smith) … never, ever said that ‘greed is good.’ Nor did he … lead towards a Benthamite notion … that ‘utility’ from benefit minus cost runs the human drama. On the contrary, Smith practiced ‘humanomics,’ an economics with the humans and their ethics left in (McCloskey and Carden, 2020, p. 176)." McCloskey embraces Adam Smith by moving forward with two more books about that Humanomics, as in McCloskey (2021) Bettering Humanomics (see Review here in the Blog ) and McCloskey (2022) which sees Bettering Humanomics also requires going Beyond Positivism, Behavioralism, and Neoinstitutionalism (see Review here in the Blog ).


McCloskey and Carden (2020) is a good read, and it is only 227 pages long. And, it saves one from reading, or perhaps it stirs one to read, the trilogy by McCloskey (2006, 2010, 2016) on which it is based, and, well, the trilogy is 1700 pages long. Also, all four books, and especially the most recent 2021 and 2022 books, lend empirical credence to the use of Dual Interest Theory (DIT) in Metaeconomics to make sense of it all. Metaeconomics is a Humanomics with a Theory, as represented in DIT.


A more formal review of McCloskey and Carden (2020) has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics. Stay tuned for Lynne (in press).


And, if you wish to go deeper, click here for The Details , which is a bit long at 30 or so pages, but, keep in mind it represents the essence of almost 2000 pages. Also, The Details wrap the story of How the Bourgeois Deal Enriched into the powerful analytical abstraction that is represented in DIT. And, the Review of McCloskey (2006), covering 616 of the 1700 pages in the trilogy, the part of the trilogy all about virtues and ethics (the main focus of McCloskey and Carden 2020) of the Bourgeois and how it all came to be, by Khachaturyan and Lynne (2010) is worth a go (click on the link in the Reference list).


What think?


References

Lynne, Gary D. Metaeconomics: Tempering Excessive Greed. (Palgrave Advances in Behavioral Economics). New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.

Lynne, Gary D. Review of "McCloskey, Deidre Nansen and Art Carden. Leave Me Alone and I’ll Make You Rich: How the Bourgeois Deal Enriched the World. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2020. Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (in press).

McCloskey, Deirdre N. The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2006.

McCloskey, Deidre Nansen. Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2010.

McCloskey, Deidre Nansen. Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2016.

McCloskey, Deidre Nansen and Art Carden. Leave Me Alone and I’ll Make You Rich: How the Bourgeois Deal Enriched the World. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2020.


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