Premiul Nobel pentru Economia Dezvoltării – un domeniu care trebuie să conteze major

Premiul Nobel pentru Economie a fost acordat anul acesta nu doar unui expert, Angus Deaton, ci, cumva, și unui domeniu, prea îngust pentru cât este de important: economia dezvoltării – preocupată de inegalități și sărăcie, problematici care sunt astfel încă o dată (o face și Papa Francisc) semnalate drept critice chiar și azi, cu atâta dezvoltări în lume…

Un alt economist preocupat de dezvoltare îi face noului laureat un laudatio, pe foreignpolicy.com:

Every year, there’s a Monday in October when the world wakes up to the latest Nobel Prize winner in economics and collectively wonders: “Who?”

Even economists like me often have to scramble to figure out who the winners are and what they did, knowing my mom or a neighbor will expect me to have an intelligent answer at some point this week. For me, at least, this year is different than most, since the winner, Angus Deaton of Princeton University, is such a towering figure in my field of international development. This is a prize for advances in our understanding of poverty and inequality. It couldn’t be better deserved. (…)

Most of us also know Deaton for some other big contribution. In my case, this was his work on commodity prices and how their fluctuations tormented developing country economies in the 1970s and 1980s. This was my second intellectual encounter with Deaton, when as a first-year Ph.D. student I started asking whether sudden shocks to oil or coffee or other commodity prices could send a country into political chaos as well. Of course, Deaton had beaten me to it.

Sudden falls in coffee and oil prices destroyed poor countries in the 1970s and 1980s, especially in Africa. Deaton had done some of the best work, both on the behavior of commodity prices, their effects on growth, and also on the reasons they caused macroeconomic chaos. He also peeked into what the effect was on coups and political instability. In later years, hundreds upon hundreds of scholars would start using data from many countries to analyze why wars and coups happen. Deaton was one of the very first.

Deaton didn’t win the Nobel for this commodity or political instability research. But it’s a nice example of why the Nobel committee chose him out of all the data and consumption revolutionaries: his interests were so wide and his contributions so influential, in so many big questions of development. His idle afterthoughts helped start huge literatures, like the cross-country study of coups and wars, often years before others caught on. (…)

These are just the top three moments for me. I could go on. I use my personal blog like a memory bank, to drop in my idle thoughts and reflections about development so I can find them later. I did a search for “Deaton” this morning, and no less than 16 posts over seven years came up, on a huge range of topics, including a response to his other controversial claim of recent years: that aid is a roadblock to development.

His book, The Great Escape, is a nice introduction to Deaton’s thinking on big trends in development, and where the rich world gets it wrong. I loved the diagnosis, and didn’t agree with the cure, but you will find few better books on development to work through. If you want more links and discussion on Deaton’s Nobel, the best I’ve seen so far are Alex Tabarrok’s round up of Deaton’s work and another from Tyler Cowen.

All in all, this is a great decision from the committee from the perspective of caring about poverty, inequality, and getting the evidence right.