Scholar Awarded Julian L. Simon Memorial Award for Moral, Historical Defense of Freedom

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 13, 2013 – CEI is pleased to announce that Deirdre McCloskey, Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication, at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is the recipient of CEI’s prestigious Julian L. Simon Memorial Award. McCloskey’s groundbreaking scholarly work has focused on historical analysis of the factors that led to advancement in human achievement and prosperity.

“Deirdre McCloskey is a great intellectual and one of the most prominent economic historians alive today,” said CEI Founder and Chairman Fred L. Smith, Jr. “McCloskey offers a moral defense of freedom: She understands that for society to really thrive, society can’t just accept or tolerate economic freedom – society must embrace it. When societies value freedom and capitalism, they prosper. 

“McCloskey’s impeccable research has documented the cultural transformation in 17th and 18th Century Europe that changed the way society thinks about trade and commerce, which in turn resulted in lifting people out of squalor. Before then, only aristocrats had wealth. That new way of thinking freed people from thousands of years of grinding poverty.”

The Simon Award was established in 2001 in honor of the late free market economist, Julian L. Simon, whose classic 1981 work, The Ultimate Resource, debunked alarmist predictions of eco-doomsayers such as Paul Ehrlich. The award will be presented at CEI’s annual gala dinner, June 20, 2013, in Washington, D.C. Previous award recipients include Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal, President Václav Klaus of the Czech Republic and “Skeptical Environmentalist” Bjørn Lomborg.

“Professor McCloskey perfectly embodies the spirit in which CEI’s Julian Simon Award was created,” said CEI President Lawson R. Bader. “Her work contributes tremendously to our understanding of the value of free markets, vigorously defends capitalism and entrepreneurialism and makes the case for freedom with a rare eloquence. It is our pleasure to honor her work.”

Quotes & wisdom from Deirdre McCloskey, in The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce:

  • One can think of the calamities of the 20th century as caused by the sins of capitalism. The left does. Capital was born, wrote Marx, “dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.” I think on the contrary that most of the calamities were a consequence of the attacks on capitalism.
  • Viewed over a longer period, however, the most amazing political fact since, say, 1800, as Tocqueville noted as early as 1835, is the spreading idea of equality in freedom, that theory of the ascendant bourgeoisie. Cynics and Jeremiahs to the contrary, it spreads yet. According to Freedom House, the percentage of “free” countries rose from 29 percent in 1973 to 46 percent in 2003, containing 44 percent of the world’s population. Think of Ukraine and South Korea. The world continues to draw on a lost, failed, used-up liberalism. Liberal democracy keeps on explaining events.
  • Possibly modern economic growth is as large and important an event in human history as the sudden perfection of language, in Africa around 50,000 BC. In a scarce 200 years our bourgeois capitalism has domesticated the world and made it, Chicago to Shanghai, into a single, throbbing city.
  • The triple revolutions of the past two centuries in politics, population, and prosperity are connected. They have had a cause and a consequence, I claim, in ethically better people. I said “better.” Capitalism has not corrupted our souls. It has improved them.
  • On the political left it has been commonplace for the past century and a half to charge that modern, industrial people, whether fat or lean, are alienated, rootless, angst-ridden, superficial, materialistic; and that it is precisely participation in markets which has made them so. Gradually, I have noted, the right and the middle have come to accept the charge. I claim that actually existing capitalism, not the collectivisms of the left or of the right, has reached beyond mere consumption, producing the best art and the best people. People have purposes. A capitalist economy gives them scope to try them out. Go to an American Kennel Club show, or an antique show, or a square-dancing convention, or to a gathering of the many millions of American birdwatchers, and you’ll find people of no social pretensions passionately engaged. Yes, some people watch more than four hours of TV a day. Yes, some people engage in corrupting purchases. But they are no worse than their ancestors, and on average better.