For millennia, most people throughout the world lived in grinding poverty, but global wealth began to accelerate rapidly around 200 years ago. What changed to allow this “Great Enrichment”? For her rigorous work examining the cultural and economic underpinnings of modern wealth, Italian Atlas Network partner Instituto Bruno Leoni (IBL) awarded its Bruno Leoni Prize to renowned economist and historian Deirdre McCloskey during the organization’s annual dinner, held at the Alcatraz in Milan.
“Her impressive trilogy on the Bourgeois Era — the last volume, Bourgeois Equality, was published by University of Chicago Press a few months ago and is arguably the most important book you can read this year — makes the case for the need for a change in the culture, with growing social appreciation of arts and crafts and entrepreneurship, to be one of the main causes of the industrial revolution,” said IBL General Director Alberto Mingardi.
More than 500 people celebrated McCloskey’s significant accomplishments at the IBL annual dinner, which also featured recorded introductory remarks by journalist Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist; and economic historian Joel Mokyr, author of A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy.
“It’s wonderful to be able to say what an incredible person Deirdre McCloskey is,” Ridley said. “She is a brilliant economist, she is a fantastic historian, she is a superb philosopher, she is a great understander of human beings, and, above all, she is a brilliant writer. I think she does more than anybody else to understand the human condition, to understand where prosperity came from, to understand how society develops, and to understand what goes wrong when the clericy tries to take over and tries to do better than the market at running human affairs.”
The dinner also served as a major fundraiser for IBL, with an auction to fund economic “micro-lectures” for more than 4,000 students in the coming year, teaching the lessons found in classic works such as “What Is Seen and What is Not Seen” by 19th century French economist Frédéric Bastiat and “I, Pencil,” by founder of the Foundation for Economic Education Leonard Read.
The historian Richard Pipes won the Bruno Leoni Prize at the organization’s 2015 annual dinner for his “academic achievements in defense of historical truth and individual freedom.”