AEI: Deirdre McCloskey on Why Liberalism Works

I just watched this entire interview hosted by James Pethokoukis at AEI of Deirdre McCloskey (formerly Donald McCloskey) about his new book Why Liberalism Works. It will suffice to say that I wasn’t persuaded by Deirdre’s case. I doubt anyone in the Dissident Right will have second thoughts about liberalism either after watching this interview.

Where to start?

Deirdre McCloskey is asked at the outset of the interview by James Pethokoukis to define liberalism. His response to this question is that the essence of liberalism is “no masters” or opposition to social hierarchies. He proceeded to cite patriarchy (the authority of husbands over their wives and children) and masters over slaves and politicians over citizens as examples of the sort of tyrannies to which classical liberalism is opposed. As a project, McCloskey defines liberalism as being opposed to any type of authority or social order.

This is precisely the charge that is leveled against classical liberalism aka True Conservatism by the Dissident Right. Liberalism is accused of being a solvent that undermines and destroys the social fabric. It is an intellectual disease that has the effect of dissolving organic cultures. It is a disruptive force that weakens the social order and the atomization, alienation and exploitation it generates leads to utopian leftwing social revolutions. The unhappiness it creates leads to a permanent state of social revolution. Conservative liberalism is incapable of stopping much less reversing the tide of progressive liberalism as it destroys its own foundations.

In traditional European cultures (those before the 18th century), Deirdre McCloskey says that everyone had a master and was immersed in an overarching narrative and a web of relationships with everyone else in society. The monarch answered to God. The merchant was regulated by the state. Wives obeyed the authority of their husbands. Children obeyed the authority of their fathers. Slaves obeyed their masters. Servants obeyed their lords or their employers. Liberalism is the idea that everyone in society should be free and equal as an individual and that no one should be in any position of authority. It is a critique of the traditional Christian social order. It is the idea that there should be no common story to organize society and foster social cohesion.

Deirdre McCloskey cites Thomas Carlyle as an example of how liberalism was under attack from the Right for the first two centuries of its existence. What did Thomas Carlyle say about liberalism that was so devastating in his Latter-Day Pamphlets?

“To rectify the relation that exists between two men, is there no method, then, but that of ending it? The old relation has become unsuitable, obsolete, perhaps unjust; and the remedy is, abolish it; let there henceforth be no relation at all. From the ‘sacrament of marriage’ downwards, human beings used to be manifoldly related one to another, and each to all; and there was no relation among human beings, just or unjust, that had not its grievances and its difficulties, its necessities on both sides to bear and forbear. But henceforth, be it known, we have changed all that by favor of Heaven; the ‘voluntary principle’ has come up, which will itself do the business for us; and now let a new sacrament, that of Divorce, which we call emancipation, and spout of on our platforms, be universally the order of the day! Have men considered whither all this is tending, and what it certainly enough betokens? Cut every human relation that has any where grown uneasy sheer asunder; reduce whatsoever was compulsory to voluntary, whatsoever was permanent among us to the condition of the nomadic; in other words, LOOSEN BY ASSIDUOUS WEDGES, in every joint, the whole fabrice of social existence, stone from stone, till at last, all lie now quite loose enough, it can, as we already see in most countries, be overset by sudden outburst of revolutionary rage; and lying as mere mountains of anarchic rubbish, solicit you to sing Fraternity, &c. over it, and rejoice in the now remarkable era of human progress we have arrived at.”

Give the liberal order enough time to work itself out and it will disrupt, pervert and chew through every type of “tyranny” in the name of expanding freedom and equality, tolerance and individual rights to the point where it is now assaulting puberty, masculinity and femininity and the division between citizens and foreigners. The beast is never satisfied.

The comeback to this criticism is the economy.

In the eyes of liberals like Deirdre McCloskey, the purpose of life is economic growth and material consumption. We live in an economy that happens to have a culture, not a culture that happens to have an economy. Both our economy and culture should be completely deregulated. Morality is a matter of private sentiment. McCloskey makes the sign of the cross as he mentions Adam Smith. He also notes that dog is god spelled backward. This is the perspective which he is coming from. Philosophically speaking, it is the exact opposite of conservatism.

Later in the discussion, McCloskey justifies Jeff Bezos being worth $100 billion dollars and dismisses the mounting concerns on both the Right and the Left that any individual who is able to amass that much wealth under the liberal order will inevitably have too much power over his fellow citizens. Amazon is a monopoly. What happens when Amazon decides to ban your books like Roosh V? What happens when you are deplatformed by VISA and Mastercard over your cultural and political views? What if AT&T and Verizon were able to ban you from telephone service? The free-market leads to corporate monopolies and a social order dominated by unaccountable oligarchs that wield vastly more power than any premodern prince. So much for liberalism eliminating masters and their hierarchies!

The chart of the last two centuries that McCloskey and Pethokoukis refer to which shows the rising standard of living in the West is highly misleading. How has Christianity fared in the West over the course of the last two centuries? How about marriage and the family? How about communities? Has our culture similarly improved? Has the West been soaring to new heights in art, literature, architecture and music under liberalism as opposed to collectivism?

It is true that the First Industrial Revolution and Second Industrial Revolution created enormous wealth and new jobs that replaced the old jobs that were destroyed by the disruption of modern capitalism. If free-market capitalism is still producing so many new jobs though, why has there been a revival of protectionism? Why is there a swelling chorus of criticism of neoliberalism? Is it because the Third Industrial Revolution and Fourth Industrial Revolution are different and haven’t provided a substitute for the employment of working class people in factories?

McCloskey takes comfort in the assumption that the future will be like the past. Populism has risen and faded before. Liberalism has been challenged before and defeated its rivals in the 20th century. The last crisis of liberalism was resolved by the Great Depression and World War II. The America which emerged from that tragedy was one in which classical liberalism had been discredited for a generation. This is a fundamentally different situation because this time Americans and Western Europeans have been deracinated by liberalism. There is an unending tidal wave of immigrants pouring into the West which is the primary force driving the rise of populism. This time our secularized culture is dominated by multiculturalism and political correctness. This time sex and gender have been deregulated by liberalism for the first time since the Late Roman Empire. This time robots and automation are simply destroying jobs for low-skilled workers.

It is a myth that the sheer force of compelling liberal ideas was responsible for the last two centuries of the West’s economic development. The true cause was imperialism and dominating world trade which got started under very different circumstances. It was British power that imposed the liberal order on the world. It was American power which inherited it and which sustains it to this day. Underneath the liberal order, it was a combination of innovation, technological change and especially the exploitation of non-renewable resources – coal, oil and natural gas – that set off the explosion in wealth. From Germany through China, rising non-liberal powers have figured this out and grown wealthy while discarding liberalism. It is doubtful that America can sustain the liberal order while suffering such a tremendous loss of cohesion. It is more probable that homogeneous China will surpass the United States in the 21st century.

McCloskey contradicts himself in the interview by saying that only individuals are capable of innovation while simultaneously noting that actually the government funds a huge amount of R&D. Most of the multinational corporations which are “innovating” are organized on such a colossal scale that they have a GDP larger than most of the countries in the world. Much of our technology whether it was the atom bomb or computers or most recently the drone are spinoffs of military technology. The technology that put the first satellite in space and a man on a moon was developed by the state, not by free enterprise.

I disagree with Deirdre McCloskey on the good society being individualist, not collectivist. He says that the family is an authoritarian institution and the model of socialism. He says that parents are like bosses. Imagine a world in which children are not corrected by their parents and allowed to indulge in every fanciful idea that strikes their imagination like wanting to be a transsexual or gay when they grow up. Such is the world that has been given to us by conservative liberalism. It is a world that makes sense to AEI and perpetual rebels like Deirdre McCloskey.

I won’t judge him too harshly on the basis of this single interview. I will have more to say about this after reading his book. I’m sure conservative liberals will love it.

About Hunter Wallace 12371 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent


  1. The American Enterprise Institute…..Being true conservatives they are probably full of old drag-queens like this curiosity.

    • But in the past they kept their cross dressing predictions in “the closet.” In Weimerika, they’ve used liberalism to display their. Degeneracy publicly.

      Weimar conditions require Weimar solutions.

      • Weimar Solutions. I couldn’t agree more, No-vembuh.

        Liberalism works about as well as the false womb of “Miss” McCloskey, to be blunt. It is sterile, and cannot bear fruit… of any kind.

  2. If our society could devolve from

    to Deierdre Donald McClosky in less than one lifetime, is it still possible to correct our heading without hitting rock bottom?

    Rich L, is correct that our society needs a “colon cleanse.” I would have to add that it would be necessary for it to undergo severe courses of cultural radiation therapy to kill feminism, conservative liberalism, neo-marxism, (((etcetera))), and a cocktail of multiple antiparasitic drugs to rid it of the yid fly larval worm infection.

    The prescription is crystal clear: Pan-Aryanism under European Nationalist and Socialist adapted from NS Germany.

    Most medicine doesn’t taste good, but you’ll feel a whole lot better afterwards.

    • I enjoyed watching that short film about the life of Joe Lunchpail in post WWII America. But looking back there was no way that kind of socio-economic arrangement could have been sustained for long. Besides, the parents of that era gave birth to kids who 20 years later would burn their draft cards and join the Manson Family.

      • Spahn,

        No doubt those kids were going to be frontline useful idiots of the degeneracy that would seep into the mainstream culture.

        I’m not an organized labor expert, but if I had to guess, unions that existed and were dissolved by NS Germany differed from unions in America. I very well could be incorrect.

        As a child, I recall at family gatherings that there would be vocal debates on the pros and cons of organized labor unions.

        In my personal experience, labor unions support demoncratic objectives and the candidates that push them forward. Neither I nor most of the people that I know believes that we got an even return on our membership dues.

        • Unions outlived their usefulness, once a parity wage was earned by ‘labor.’ The Unions (sensing they would soon be out of a job- THEIR job) began to use the claims for a ‘fair wage’ to import Niggers from the South, which then destroyed Detroit, equalized unfit hominids to supplant your 1950’s White Worker, and then saw the ‘cash cow’ that union bosses could use for POLITICIZATION – that, and being overtaken by communist organizers, who used the Unions (and their bosses) for the cultural war that has given us, exactly what Spawn pointed out!

          All men are NOT created equal, and not everyone DESERVES the things that intelligence, breeding, and civility should hold as their own prerogatives. Manual laborers are NOT the equal of the King, the Aristos, or the Sacerdotal class, as both the Middle Ages, and ancient Greece and Rome, made quite clear. The Rule of the Mob (demos) is just that- an anarchic destructive impulse fueled by greed on the one hand, and envy on the other…. both of which are sins.

          Instead, the leaven of Christianity was clearly able to avoid these scenarios, when it had untrammeled access to all and sundry as the ONLY Religion allowed by, and as the equal of (the Orthodox doctrine of “Symphony”) the State: “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content…” [ Phil. 4:11]

          The threefold order of society noted by Andrew Fraser in his books (“The WASP Question,” and “Dissident Dispatches”) point out that this is both equitable and fair- each group has their place in society, and each contributes to the others- and those outliers in each group (much like the Church did in Medieval Europe) can allow those higher IQ individuals to rise from their station in life, to a higher station, without (via celibacy) disruption of the genetic privilege to ‘thee and to thy seed after thee.’ This also curbs the fallacy that fornication with the ‘lower classes’ and/or the adulteration of the species by ‘inter-species (i.e., [sic] ‘interracial (cough, hack) marriage’) can be considered a way ‘out’ of your class.

          But the fallacy that ontological or sexual equality is a ‘given’? That’s one of the, if not THE heresy of democracy, as Lord Percy noted, and leads only to the guillotine of the French Revolution, or the Gulags of the Soviet ‘planners’… or the current crop of Demon-crapic Presidential idiots, and their GloboHomoSchlomo worldview, which is Anathema.

          • Moreover, this is exactly what Fr. Coughlin saw in Michigan, and why his radio ministry in the 1920’s and ’30’s was so popular- until the Pope (and the judaizing element in the Curia- cf. E. Michael Jones’ magisterial compendium on this subject, “The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit: And Its Impact on World History”) turned their backs on Coughlin’s witness to an America, already being destroyed.

            A generation later, we had another Midwestern Catholic sound the alarm, by the name of Senator Eugene McCarthy. But that’s another story, and one that only a free country, finally freed from its Jewish propagandistic roots –

            (i.e., Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” is little more than Jewish Propaganda- )

            can speak honestly about, in and for, a freer era than this.


    • I like your Pan Aryan proposal. At heart I’m a monarchist and quite fond of the old German and Russian imperial dynasties. But their chauvanism did lead to the Great War. Of course that conflict probably would’ve ended in 1916 in a stalemate if it weren’t for the interference of Woody Wilson and his Wailing Wall Street financiers.

      • Without millions of fresh American troops, it would have ended in 1918 with a German victory on the continent.

        • As the Russian Church has noted, the Bolshevik Revolution (with the Jews as the organizers, planners, and overseers – in a perverse way, the antichristian perversion of the three fold order of Deacon, Priest, and Bishop) was GOD’s judgment on Russia, for turning her back on both her Lord, and the Sovereign (Czar St. Nicholas II)- and that the period of her ‘captivity’ is not coincidental to the 70 years of the O.T. ‘Church’s’ own captivity in Babylon.

          I think our discarding the Monroe Doctrine, and what has happened to us, since WE allowed the Deicide into OUR midst, post-1920 (Columbia University, Boas, the New School for ‘Social Research, Gramsci, et al.) is God’s judgment on US, (U.S.?) for not learning the lessons the Russians learned at the hands of the Jewish/Soviet antichrist System.

          • Uh, millions of innocent White Russians, Ukrainians died due what the Russian Orthodox Church considers God’s punishment for not defending the Romanovs from the (((Bolshevik))) butchers.

            That seems like (no pun intended) maniacal and malevolent overkill by a vengeful deity.

            Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll stick to cosmology and natural law.

  3. He/she looks and sounds mentally ill although high functioning judging by this article and a couple of appearances on C-SPAN. This type of person knows he is a mess but hates the truth being pointed out to him. Ironically it is the State using its enormous power that is backing him up, silencing his critics, de-platforming them and passing “anti-discrimination” laws for his and other degenerates’ benefit. Abolishing hierarchies, indeed.

    Liberalism’s worship of Mammon ignores that the Scientific/Industrial Revolution which advanced with and supported industrial capitalism was advanced by aristocrats and men of means for centuries. Some of the names in science (or Natural Philosophy as it was called) e.g. Newton, Liebniz, Copernicus, Galileo, Harvey, Pasteur, Galvani, Volta, Ampere, Henry, Watt et al. lived and worked in hierarchical cultures. Science was developed as an intellectual pursuit (Newton), conducted by aristocrats (Lavoisier) and supported by monarchs (Pope Gregory XIII, Gregorian Calendar).

    This was true in the 19th and 20th centuries as the State replaced aristocracy and monarchy as a means of funding research. IBM developed the SAGE (Semi Automatic Ground Environment) computer in the late 1950’s for the U.S. Air Force subsidizing work on displays, real time processing, data storage etc. Penicillin and other drugs were developed with government funding. Democracy and equality are not positive factors in society, they lead to Drag Queen Story Time, fines for using the “wrong” gender pronoun and junk science such as the “Global Warming” fraud.

    • When I clicked on this article, I initially saw the pic of this creature, and thought, “What’s wrong with that woman? It looks….ill…”. Then I began reading the text. The creature is a severely mentally ill basket case. That’s all I need to know about it.

  4. We’re gonna have to send Brad’s narrow white country ass off to pronoun reeducation camp.

Comments are closed.