DEIRDRE N. MCCLOSKEY:

Why are we so rich? . . .

Actually, the “we” of comparative enrichment includes most countries nowadays, with sad exceptions. . . .

What caused it? The usual explanations follow ideology. . . .

Deirdre has other ideas:

The capital became productive because of ideas for betterment—ideas enacted by a country carpenter or a boy telegrapher or a teenage Seattle computer whiz. As Matt Ridley put it in his book “The Rational Optimist” (2010), what happened over the past two centuries is that “ideas started having sex.” . . .

Why did ideas so suddenly start having sex, there and then? . . .

The answer, in a word, is “liberty.” Liberated people, it turns out, are ingenious. Slaves, serfs, subordinated women, people frozen in a hierarchy of lords or bureaucrats are not.

Yes, liberty. Read the whole thing.

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