Thursday, February 23, 2012

100 Days of Gratitude - Day 19: Angus Deaton

Prof. Angus Deaton
Angus Deaton, who recently received the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award, is in my pantheon of professors.  No one in my graduate school gave me better tools to understand the world than he did.

His class in cost-benefit analysis in 1983 enabled me later in life to hold my own with the world's top experts in the area (and it has informed my skepticism about the current emphasis on metrics in aid and philanthropy).  I regret I did not devote more effort to his econometrics class - but even half my attention gave me more understanding of that discipline than many practitioners have.

In this day and age of one silver bullet after another, Angus stands out as a sober source of intelligent insight and perspective - especially related to the latest fads.

For example, in 2009 he wrote an understated but devastating critique of the exaggerated hype about randomized controlled trials in development aid.  Last year Angus delivered a low-key but serious indictment of the entire foreign aid apparatus, something he and I have both worked with for decades.  (The video is not easy to watch, but it does contain painful truths we all need to grapple with, and I highly recommend it.)

I was lucky enough to get a very good education before I started my working career, and it was professors such as Angus Deaton who gave me the skills to do what I am doing today.  For that, I am exceptionally grateful.