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Bettering Humanomics

A New, and Old, Approach to Economic Science

Deirdre Nansen McCloskey's latest meticulous work examines how economics can become a more "human" science.

Economic historian Deirdre Nansen McCloskey has distinguished herself through her writing on the Great Enrichment and the betterment of the poor—not just materially but spiritually. In Bettering Humanomics she continues her intellectually playful yet rigorous analysis with a focus on humans rather than the institutions. Going against the grain of contemporary neo-institutional and behavioral economics which privilege observation over understanding, she asserts her vision of “humanomics,” which draws on the work of Bart Wilson, Vernon Smith, and most prominently, Adam Smith. She argues for an economics that uses a comprehensive understanding of human action beyond behaviorism.
McCloskey clearly articulates her points of contention with believers in “imperfections,” from Samuelson to Stiglitz, claiming that they have neglected scientific analysis in their haste to diagnose the ills of the system. In an engaging and erudite manner, she reaffirms the global successes of market-tested betterment and calls for empirical investigation that advances from material incentives to an awareness of the human within historical and ethical frameworks. Bettering Humanomics offers a critique of contemporary economics and a proposal for an economics as a better human science.

144 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2021

Economics and Business: Economics--General Theory and Principles


"Can we have economic thought that focuses on people and tries to understand rather than merely observe? Rejecting contemporary trends, McCloskey paves the way to an economics dedicated to the betterment of human lives."

The Bookseller

“There is no doubting the extraordinary breadth and depth of [McCloskey’s] knowledge... A critique by someone who knows what she’s talking about.”

The Enlightened Economist

“This book presents a series of arguments for improving academic enquiry through the lens of 'humanomics.' For economists, or other academics, who haven’t come across humanomics before, it is in essence a combination of the rigorous tools of economics with more human elements such as the critical perspectives that are often found in the humanities. Pioneers of this approach include 'the father of economics,' Adam Smith, Nobel prizewinner Vernon Smith and experimental economist Bart Wilson. . . McCloskey presents compelling arguments that economic agents are not merely attempting to maximise their utility, but are influenced by other factors such as the power of words.”

Times Higher Education

Best Summer Books of 2021
"What economics needs to fulfil its unparalleled potential as the premier science of human progress, [McCloskey] insists, is the rediscovery of its origins as the discipline that successfully marries the methods of the sciences and the humanities. In Bettering Humanomics, a sparkling cameo of a book, she offers a summary of this, her life-long project. The result is a richly allusive account of what such a combination — 'humanomics', as she calls it — looks like, and why it offers a better guide to understanding where prosperity ultimately comes from and what policymakers can do to help it on its way."

Financial Times

“This new book quite seriously advances the continuing conversation in humanomics. It discovers Adam Smith and resumes a path that McCloskey has so magnificently helped to reinvigorate in the last half century.”

Vernon Smith, Chapman University and 2002 Nobel Laureate in Economics

“How is economic science going to progress? By embracing ethics, the humanities, and language as part of the tool kit alongside mathematics—and recognizing that economists should never try to be social engineers because they are part of the societies they study. McCloskey makes a compelling case for economics for humans—and offers some hope that the discipline is tilting in that direction.”

Diane Coyle, University of Cambridge

"Provocative, bold, ironic, erudite, and above all, well-written."


Table of Contents


Part I. The Proposal
Chapter 1. Humanomics and Liberty Promise Better Economic Science
Chapter 2. Adam Smith Practiced Humanomics, and So Should We
Chapter 3. Economic History Illustrates the Problems with Nonhumanomics
Chapter 4. An Economic Science Needs the Humanities
Chapter 5. It’s Merely a Matter of Common Sense and Intellectual Free Trade
Chapter 6. After All, Sweet Talk Rules a Free Economy
Chapter 7. Therefore We Should Walk on Both Feet, Like Ludwig Lachmann
Chapter 8. That Is, Economics Needs Theories of Human Minds beyond Behaviorism

Part II. The Killer App
Chapter 9. The Killer App of Humanomics Is the Evidence That the Great Enrichment Came from Ethics and Rhetoric
Chapter 10. The Dignity of Liberalism Did It
Chapter 11. Ideas, Not Incentives, Underlie It
Chapter 12. Even as to Time and Location
Chapter 13. The Word’s the Thing

Part III. The Doubts
Chapter 14. Doubts by Analytic Philosophers about the Killer App Are Not Persuasive
Chapter 15. Nor by Sociologists or Political Philosophers
Chapter 16. Nor Even by Economic Historians
Works Cited

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