Rhetorical Economist, Economics Rhetorician

English: Image of Deirdre McCloskey "for ...
English: Image of Deirdre McCloskey "for Public Use" as stated on her website http://www.deirdremccloskey.org/main/pr.php (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Deirdre McCloskey might be the "rhetorician" I've most enjoyed reading. She's decidedly libertarian, often addressing the supposed "moral failings" of the philosophy. Though her degrees are in economics (Harvard grad, but we forgive her), she understands rhetoric better than many elite professors in that discipline. Her dry wit alone makes her books worth the time to read.

If I could suggest some books, as I do for my students:
McCloskey has written fourteen books and more articles than I could count. Her attention to detail without getting lost in minutiae is a rare gift among academics.

She dares to critique the big names in rhetoric and philosophy, doing so deftly. She also pays homage to one of my favorite scholars, Wayne C. Booth, in many of her works. Booth's study of the "Rhetoric of Fiction" (and a book of the same name) is foundational for those of us interested in how narratives shape the audience experience. To apply Booth the economics? That thrills me.

While McCloskey is, first and most quantitatively, an economics wonder, I call her a rhetorician with the utmost respect. She is a rhetorical economist.

I am not an economist, though I do often wish I had the degree. Instead, I am a rhetorician deeply passionate about economics. I devour economics texts, histories, biographies, and even Federal Reserve white papers. The math is fascinating, the models wondrous… if deeply flawed. And that is why I don't mind being a rhetorician of economics. If I can help explain economics, especially "conservative" and "libertarian" economic theories, using any of my writing skills, that would be rewarding.

Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Fiction often promotes, critiques, or outright attacks economic theories. It is no secret that most of my colleagues in the humanities are politically and economically to the left. Their writings and the readings they select for courses are often unabashedly anti-capitalist. I wish to be the voice of the other side.

As I have written, libertarianism is often attacked and mocked without any concern for the actual philosophy. Shout "Ayn Rand!" and the debate is over. Libertarians are soulless creatures with faith only in the free market. McCloskey offers an alternate narrative. While she doesn't embrace the Austrian School in economics (she is decidedly Chicago), she does not mock (too often) the experiences and ideals of the great Austrian proponents.

McCloskey reveals a great many weaknesses in the Keynesian rhetoric (and models). She reminds us that quantitative analysis can be "right" and still miss a great many variables. Or, it can be "right" for no good reason. Good math doesn't always equate to good theory or good policy.
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