Latest Issue

What critics of liberalism get wrong

A new book on liberalism by David Wootton misses the point

By Deirdre McCloskey   May 2019

Deirdre McCloskey critiques a new book on liberalism

In England between 1658 and 1832 the theory about what motivated people changed. Was this a good thing? The intellectual historian David Wootton shows that the theory did change. But he very much doubts it was a good thing.

Historically speaking, “Pleasure and profit were often coupled together,” Wootton notes in his astonishingly learned book, but never until 1658 and the publication of William Percey’s The Compleat Swimmer “were they claimed to be the only motivations, to the…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect