Originally broadcast: March 12, 2012
Everywhere we look there are “economic indicators.” We talk about the jobless rate and the national debt. We learn about the first quarter and evaluate movies by how much they earn on opening weekend. In the end, life insurance companies determine our “worth.” Does any of this make sense?
On the next episode of WHY?, we’ll talk with economic historian Deirdre McCloskey about what these figures tell us and what they leave out. We’ll ask where the human experience is in the midst of all these numbers and investigate economic assumptions that claim human beings are self-interested, and that happiness or desires can be quantified. We’ll even ask whether economics is, itself, a science that leads to objective information.
Deirdre McCloskey is a Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is also a Professor of Economic History, Gothenburg University in Sweden. She is interested in the rhetoric of economics and wider literary matters, such as literary and social theory. Her main project for is writing a six-volume series on “The Bourgeois Era.” The first two volumes The Bourgeois Virtues, Ethics for An Age of Commerce and Bourgeoisie Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World, have already been published. Deirdre describes herself as is a free-market economist and explains that her project is a defense of capitalism that is fair to both the right and the left. She is the author of numerous other books other than her six-volume project. Her webpage and examples of her work can be found here.