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    McCloskey Again: Why Not Call The Book "Bourgeois Rhetoric?"

    DEIRDRE McCloskey has finished her magnum opus Bourgeois Trilogy with Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World. And now I've finished the book, all 787 pages.

    Start over: Conservatism's Big Problem.

    I'm afraid I have a problem. What was the point of the third volume? McCloskey has said it all already. Here is how I understood her message five years ago after Volume Two hit the stores, in answer to the question What did it? What made the Bourgeois Era?

    The key thing that changed, according to McCloskey, was not technological change, but a cultural, rhetorical change. About three hundred years ago, around the North Sea, societies started to respect the commercial bourgeoisie and the things that it did. It allowed, for the first time, the bourgeoisie to do what comes naturally, to innovate and change things.
    I already went through saying that I didn't think she had anything new to say a couple of days ago. But I hadn't quite finished the book, all 787 pages, back then.

    So when I got to the end of the book, I read that the Bourgeois Revaluation "came out of a rhetoric that would, and will, enrich the world." You mean, just like she said back in 2010 in Bourgeois Dignity?

    OK. So why not call the book "Bourgeois Rhetoric: How I am right and the Guys That Say It Was Capital or Institutions are Wrong." Because that's what the book is all about, picking fights with other academics and going into the long grass with the Oxford English Dictionary to show when "innovation" ceased being a pejorative.

    I tell you what I am looking forward to. I am looking forward to the day when racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe is no longer a liberal pejorative, but a pathetic joke.

    McCloskey invokes Edmund Burke as an enemy of innovation, which I regard as a bit of a low blow, perhaps intended to hit the nostaglic Russell Kirk. Burke wasn't opposed to innovation so much as opposed to "sophisters, economists, and calculators," the Newtonian mechanics of materialism. As an opponent of mechanism and materialism he was on McCloskey's side. And his life centered around four great campaigns that fit right into the Bourgeois culture: for Catholic emancipation in Ireland for which he lost his seat in Parliament representing the slave port of Bristol; for the anathematization of the plundering imperialist Warren Hastings; for letting the North American colonies go their own way; and for predicting that the French Revolution would end in the gallows. Nothing very innovative there, of course, just Russell Kirk presiding as a loving lord over his neo-feudal estate at Piety Hill.

    Throughout the book McCloskey is likes to equate right wing with left wing opposition to her "trade-tested betterment." I suppose there are righties down the last two centuries that have pushed against the Great Enrichment, chaps like Carlyle and, in the last century, Russell Kirk of Mecosta, Michigan. But their influence has been minuscule compared with the influence of McCloskey's "post 1848 clerisy," the Left. To keep asserting "balance" by hitting the right and left equally is distracting, and pandering to the New York Times set ("My people" in The Bourgeois Virtues).

    And here are some more problems that I have with McCloskey. She represents Zola's Germinal as anti-capitalist. So it is, perhaps, in a superficial reading. But in Germinal Zola humanizes the bourgeois owners of the coal mine who know and hate that they are hurting the miners. But prices are down, so what can they do? And Étienne, the community organizer that leads the miners in the strike that destroys their livelihood, leaves the miners at the end of the book and sets off for his next community organizing gig in another town. Did Zola nail the nascent left-wing "activism" culture or what? Maybe I am reading too much into it, for after all, Zola must know that bashing the bosses sells books.

    In The Ladies Paradise (now a BBC TV series) McCloskey is equivocal, quoting a bit of anti-Semitism that may or may not come from Zola himself. The hero, M. Mouret, is a counter-jumper brimming with innovative ideas for bringing retailing into the 19th century and inventing that ladies' paradise, the big department store. Among other things, Mouret learns how to use the haute bourgeoisie, including a a rich-bitch mistress and a financier, to grow his business. The heroine, Denise, is the compleat bourgeoise, utterly principled and virtuous in the full seven virtues celebrated by McCloskey in The Bourgeois Virtues. McCloskey equivocates, but I experience The Ladies Paradise as a celebration of innovation and everything bourgeois even as it does not shrink from showing the miseries of the small shopkeepers, that Mouret sees as fools, driven to bankruptcy by the innovations of the big department store.

    Another thing. The aristocracy 500 years ago was starting to move away from Hegel's pure Herrschaft. In England, once the Tudors had stripped them of their castles and their private armies, the aristocrats got interested in "improvement," making money by improving their agricultural estates and advancing the agricultural revolution that "hurled" the peasants off the land. So, by 1600 at the latest the landed warriors started to compete in the market economy for the wealth they needed to win at competitive social events in the courts of the absolute monarchs. So the rise of the bourgeoisie did not take place in a vacuum. The king's monopoly on armies meant that the warrior class had to diversify away from war-only. And it did.

    But enough of cavil and calumny.

    Even though Bourgeois Equality is heavy reading, and does not advance the narrative beyond the first two books, it does not subtract from McCloskey's overall achievement. The Great Enrichment of the last 200 years, that has brought each individual from $3 per day to $100 per day and more, is a stunning achievement, never seen before in history, and the bourgeoisie did it. This astonishing and unique event rests on bourgeois virtues and the culture of the bourgeoisie, that people should have a go at innovation and improvement, and that the established interests should not stand in their way, at least not much. That is something that needs to be said, over and over again, and McCloskey is not too shy to do it.

    But what I was hoping for, as I read Bourgeois Equality and its occasional swipe at the lefty "post 1848 clerisy," was an analysis of the clerisy, some theory or depth of understanding that could help us all make sense of the left's negativism and its war on "trade tested betterment." I didn't find that, so I am still pushing my Three Peoples theory, with the People of the Creative Self descending into violence and compulsion to exercise their taste for creativity.

    You see, if you have a yen to be creative you have two options. You can innovate and submit your innovation to the trade-testing of the market. Or you can declare war on society and force it to bend to your brilliant ideas. There are two ways to get to Scotland, the high road and the low road. The "post-1848 clerisy," the People of the Creative Self, chose the low road, and for sure, they got to Scotland before ye. But millions of people have suffered and died for their sins by the bonny banks of Loch Lomond.

    perm | comment | Follow chrischantrill on Twitter | 05/26/16 2:05 pm ET

    Sorry, Charles Murray, You Don't Get It

    I revere Charles Murray, who has written books about politics that, I hope, will stand the test of the ages. We are talking about Losing Ground, which told us that the liberals knew that their Great Society welfare programs weren't working. But they did nothing to fix them. Then we are talking about Coming Apart, a look at White America from 1960 to 2010, which told us that the bottom 30 ...

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    perm | comment | Follow chrischantrill on Twitter | 05/25/16 6:32 pm ET

    McCloskey Again: 787 Pages For What?

    THE third volume of Deirdre McCloskey's Bourgeois Trilogy is out, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World, all 787 pages of it. And I am left wondering: what exactly is new in the third volume that had not been thoroughly thrashed out in the first two volumes, The Bourgeois Virtues and Bourgeois Dignity? So I went back through my McCloskey Week blogs of ...

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    perm | comment | Follow chrischantrill on Twitter | 05/24/16 7:00 pm ET

    Bathrooms and Gramsci and Thermidor

    I got in a lot of trouble with the commenters at American Thinker last week when I wrote that Trump is Thermidor, meaning that he represents the inevitable reaction after the virtual reign of terror by the SJWs during the Obama administration. I think that the commenters' main problem was the reluctance to equate Trump with dictator. Now here's a piece in the American Spectator about the ...

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    perm | comment | Follow chrischantrill on Twitter | 05/23/16 5:44 pm ET

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    “I Want a President”

    Georg Simmel’s Sociology

    Charles Murray’s By The People

    Thomas Piketty’s Capital

    The Spirit Level

    McCloskey’s “Bourgeois Era”

    Karl Polanyi’s Great Transformation

    A Look at the Left: “Contra-deBoer”


    Download latest e-book draft here.


    A New Manifesto
    A spectre is haunting the liberal elite—the spectre of conservatism.


    The Crisis of the Administrative State
    It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

    Government and the Technology of Power
    If you scratch a social reformer, you will likely discover a plan for more government.

    Business, Slavery, and Trust
    Business is all about trust and relationship.

    Humanity's Big Problem: Freebooters and Freeloaders
    The modern welfare state encourages freeloaders.

    The Bonds of Faith
    No society known to anthropology or history lacked religion.

    A Critique of Social Mechanics
    The problem with human society reduced to system.

    The Paradox of Individualism
    Is individualism the gospel of selfishness or something else?

    From Multitude to Civil Society
    The larger the government, the smaller the society.

    The Answer is Civil Society
    In between the separated powers.

    The Greater Separation of Powers
    If you want to limit power then you must limit power.

    Conservatism Three by Three
    Conservatism, political, economics, and cultural.

    The Culture of Involvement
    Imagining lives without the welfare state

    The Poor Without the Welfare State
    Can the poor thrive without the welfare state?

    The Middle Class Without The Welfare State
    How would the middle class live without all those middle-class entitlements?

    Liberals and the Welfare State
    Liberals, the ruling class of the administrative welfare state.

    From Freeloaders to Free Givers
    The path to the future lies through moral movements.

    The Real Meaning of Society
    Broadening the horizon of cooperation in the “last best hope of man on earth.”

    conservative manifesto



    AAM Books on Education

    Andrew Coulson, Market Education
    How universal literacy was achieved before government education

    Carl Kaestle, Pillars of the Republic
    How we got our education system

    James Tooley, The Miseducation of Women
    How the feminists wrecked education for boys and for girls

    James Tooley, Reclaiming Education
    How only a market in education will provide opportunity for the poor

    E.G. West, Education and the State
    How education was doing fine before the government muscled in

    AAM Books on Law

    Hernando De Soto, The Mystery of Capital
    How ordinary people in the United States wrote the law during the 19th century

    F. A. Hayek, Law Legislation and Liberty, Vol 1
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    John Zane, The Story of Law
    How law developed from early times down to the present

    AAM Books on Mutual Aid

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    How the welfare state makes crime, education, families, and health care worse.

    David Beito, From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State
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    cruel . corrupt . wasteful
    unjust . deluded



    After a year of President Obama most Americans understand that the nation is on the wrong track. But how do we find the right track? Americans knew thirty years ago that liberalism was a busted flush. Yet Reaganism and Bushism seemed to be less than the best answer.

    But where can we turn? Where are the thinkers and activists of the old days? Where do we find the best ideas? And how do we persuade our present ruling class to loosen its grip on power so that we can move the locomotive of state back onto the right track?

    With all of our problems it seems like the worst of times.

    In fact, this is the best of times. Under the radar a generation of great thinkers have been figuring out what went wrong and conjuring up visions of a better future. This book, "An American Manifesto: Life After Liberalism" is an introduction to their ideas, and to the great future that awaits an America willing to respond to their call.

    Although this book is addressed to all Americans, conservative, moderate, and liberal, and looks to a nation that transcends our present partisan divide, I must tell you that liberals will have the most difficulty with the book. The reason is simple. I am asking liberals to give up a lot of the power they have amassed in the last century. But we are all Americans, and we must all give up something for the sake of the greater good.


    I am Christopher Chantrill and I am writing this book in full view. I'll be blogging on the process and the ideas, and I'll be asking you, dear readers, to help. Read the blog. Read the articles as they come out on American Thinker and ponder over the draft chapters here on this site.

    Then send me your reactions, your thoughts, and your comments. You will help more than you know.


    Faith & Purpose

    “When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
    Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990

    Mutual Aid

    In 1911... at least nine million of the 12 million covered by national insurance were already members of voluntary sick pay schemes. A similar proportion were also eligible for medical care.
    Green, Reinventing Civil Society


    “We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
    E. G. West, Education and the State

    Living Under Law

    Law being too tenuous to rely upon in [Ulster and the Scottish borderlands], people developed patterns of settling differences by personal fighting and family feuds.
    Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures

    German Philosophy

    The primary thing to keep in mind about German and Russian thought since 1800 is that it takes for granted that the Cartesian, Lockean or Humean scientific and philosophical conception of man and nature... has been shown by indisputable evidence to be inadequate. 
    F.S.C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West


    Inquiry does not start unless there is a problem... It is the problem and its characteristics revealed by analysis which guides one first to the relevant facts and then, once the relevant facts are known, to the relevant hypotheses.
    F.S.C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities


    “But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
    Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison


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