Thursday, October 20, 2016

What explains economic growth?

Bourgeois Equality. How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World

This is the great question that Deirdre Nansen McCloskey tries to answer in her last book of the trilogy. If we want to continue to improve our living standards we should confirm that we are on the right track. And she says:
"an anti-bourgeois rhetoric, specially if combined with the logic of vested interests, has in many ocasions damaged societies"
She focuses specially on how specific places changed their views on those that create value. Part IV explains how a pro-bourgeois rhetoric was formed in England around 1700:
In other words, the attitude of medieval Europe and its church toward the bourgeoisie was nothing like entirely hostile, especially in northern Italy and in some of the ports of Iberia and the Baltic, even if it did not result in the business-dominated civilization of the southern Low Countries after 1400, and more widely Holland after 1568, and England after 1688. Barcelona, for example, was from medieval times an exception to the antibourgeois character of the rest of Spain—as in some ways it still is, and as Basque Bilbao came to be in the nineteenth century
 Realizing the potential depended on a bourgeois ideology adopted by whole societies, not merely by the bourgeoisie itself. The ideology had been foreshadowed in the Hanse towns such as Lübeck and Bergen and Danzig, and in some trading towns of southern Germany, and in the prosperous little cities of Flanders and Brabant, in Barcelona, in the Huguenot strongholds of France, and especially in the northern Italian cities such as Venice, Florence, Genoa, and the rest.
In summary, a change in ideas modified deeply wealth creation. I can't summarise 768 pages. My recommendation is to read it if you are interested in economic history. The key questions are answered there and in two previous books. You may agree or not, but persuasive style of Mccloskey is guaranteed. Some parts are repetitive and controversial, but the amount of quotes and knowledge is amazing. You'll enjoy the impressive erudition of Deirdre McCloskey.



PS. Today in the news has started a new anti-bourgeois campaign, the goal is to increase the taxes of the super-rich. It just sounds really as the opposite of what Deirdre says that has allowed us the betterment process of the last three centuries. Our economics minister is professor of economic history. It would be good that somebody gifts him the book and convinces him to read it.

PS. While I was studying my PhD, in rhetorics course, Deirdre came. I will always remember how she argued about the need to change economic methodology. Unfortunately after two decades, the academic profession has taken the opposite direction, a mathematical perspective.

PS. Eduard Bonet, from ESADE, is quoted several times in the book. I would like to acknowledge his guidance on this topic.

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