Saturday, December 24, 2016

Nobel Prizewinner Sir Angus Deaton on a year of political earthquakes

When I arrived at Bristol University as a nineteen-year old Economics Undergraduate Professor Angus Deaton was head of the Economics Department and professor of Econometrics. As a student representative I saw him do an excellent job of chairing the department board meetings - later he taught me Econometrics.

He was a superb teacher - I was fortunate enough to benefit from the expertise of some excellent teachers at the schools and universities I attended but Angus Deaton was probably one of the two most outstanding. I was absolutely delighted when he received the Nobel Prize for economics last year and a knighthood in this year's Queens birthday honours, two distinctions both of which were thoroughly deserved.

There is a fascinating account of an interview with him in the FT,

"Nobel economist Angus Deaton on a year of political earthquakes"

which describes both some of the very worrying trends he has recently investigated - such as increasing suicide rates and more people reporting that they are suffering from severe physical pain - and his reasons for being optimistic about the long term.

The article is utterly replete with irony: both Deaton and the interviewer are totally aware, for instance, that he is about as much a member of the elite as you can get and yet feels alienated from the elite. He draws as a positive conclusion from 2016 that "The good story is that these will all be warnings to the elites that you can't go on like this."

Another irony is that, except on the specific issue of Brexit and had he not been one of the individuals Michael Gove compared with Nazi collaborators (for which Gove later apologised) you get the impression that Angus Deaton would have been more likely than most people in his position to have at least some sympathy with what Gove was trying to get at with his comments about experts.

The article is really well worth a read and you can find it on the FT website here.

No comments: