… is from pages 32-33 of the final (2016) volume – Bourgeois Equality – of Deirdre N. McCloskey’s pioneering trilogy on the essence of bourgeois values, on their transmission, and on their essential role in modern life:
The enrichment [of the modern world] came mainly from bourgeois liberty and creativity unbridled, not from piling up constraints on voluntary deals or from redistributing what income we get from the deals. Wages and working conditions, after such shocking enrichment, are in fact determined largely by supply and demand, not by regulations passed by Congress or by struggles on the picket line. All boats do rise. Professors and artists and child-care workers, whose productivity has not increased for millennia, benefit from being substitutes in the long run for farmers and truck drivers and medical doctors, whose productivity during the Great Enrichment has risen enormously. A professor with an antique technology of chalk-and-talk could have instead entered farming or medicine, which means that she must earn, roughly at least, what such utterly transformed jobs earn.
The above passage is a beautiful example of economics at its very best: a deep knowledge of price theory creatively used to explain historical reality and, simultaneously, to bust popular myths (which, sadly, are still believed even by some economists – economists who have, at best, only a weak grip on price theory).