Essential Women of Liberty: Deirdre McCloskey

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Essential Women of Liberty: Deirdre McCloskey

Published by the Fraser Institute, the Essential Women of Liberty includes a book (and accompanying website and animated videos), which spotlight the lives and ideas of women who helped shape the free and prosperous societies we enjoy today. This essay authored by Lynne Kiesling, a research professor at the University of Colorado-Denver and senior fellow of the Fraser Institute, examines the key insights of Deirdre McCloskey whose humanistic view of economics has fundamentally changed the way economists approach their profession.

Born in Michigan in 1942, McCloskey earned her PhD in economics at Harvard University before accepting a teaching position at the University of Chicago where she made significant contributions to the use of quantitative methods in economic history.

In perhaps her most well-known work, McCloskey’s Bourgeois trilogy (published from 2006 to 2016) sought to understand why some countries prosper while others languish. In her trilogy, McCloskey explains the emergence of bourgeois civilization, the technological and commercial innovations it inspired, and how these innovations helped produce what McCloskey calls the “Great Enrichment”—the 3,000 per cent increase in living standards over the past 300 years.

She also pioneered a modern focus on the rhetoric of economics, emphasizing the need for economists to communicate clearly and concisely. And criticized much of modern economic method, arguing that economists overemphasize mathematical and statistical methods and overlook the importance of metaphor, narrative and other more humanistic forms of rhetoric.

McCloskey is currently a distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a senior fellow of the Fraser Institute.

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