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Quotation of the Day…

… is from pages 577-578 of the ink-still-wet-on-its-pages final volume – Bourgeois Equality – of Deirdre McCloskey’s magnificent trilogy on the essence and role of bourgeois values in modern life (original emphasis):

And in some important respects equality is improved by an ethic of trading.  Free entry erodes monopolies that in traditional societies keep one tribe rich and the rest poor.  Unfettered ability of workers to offer themselves for employment erodes differentials, as I noted in mentioning Robert Frost’s wavering between teaching and farming, between a professor who teaches with the same scant equipment that Socrates used – a place to draw diagrams, a stretch of sand in Athens, Greece, or a whiteboard in Athens, Georgia, and a crowd of students – and an airline pilot working with the finest fruits of a technological civilization.  The pilot produces thousands of times more value of travel services per hour than a Greek steersman in 400 BCE.  The professor produces, if she is very lucky, the same insight per student hour as Socrates.  But equality of physical productivity doesn’t matter in a free, great (that is big and trading and mobile) society. Entry and exit to occupations is what matters.  Some few of the professors could have become airline pilots, and some few of the pilots professors, which is enough to give even workers like the professors who who have not increased in productivity in the past twenty-five hundred years an equal share of the finest fruits.


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