Ok, let’s get a couple things out of the way: I think Angus Deaton’s work is important. Big fan.
But this piece in the Financial Times had me throwing up at my desk. The big takeaway is that Professor Deaton hates technocratic insiders and thinks of himself as a bit of an outsider, and he “likes Obama” and now “doesn’t have to pretend he likes Hillary.”
There’s just nothing worse than a woman who isn’t liiiiiiikeable. Let’s try something like “I don’t think she’s the leader we need right now.” There. It’s possible to reject a woman’s leadership without making it about whether she was pleasing to you personally.
But to my main problem, nothing says “outsider” like winning the Nobel, having tenure at Princeton, and spending one’s summers flyfishing in Montana. That’s just what happens for everybody.
This is what I mean when I say that this whole dialogue in the US about class is utterly debased, and frankly stupid. The conversation is not about who has wealth or power. It’s who spouts the best bs about being an outsider and shows the right culture war markers (“I go fishing” rather than “I love opera”) rather than who has power, access to power, or in the case of economists like Professor Deaton, who act as privileged consultants to power. Let’s by all means skip the problem that there are PLENTY of genuinely economically disenfranchised people in the academy–adjuncts and many, many low-wage workers all over campuses everywhere. Nope. Let’s think about Deaton’s outsider status because, you know, that way we can avoid thinking about those other people who are actually marginalized.
So Deaton goes on to condemn cold technocrats, but if there is a discipline more implicated in the technocracy than economics, I can’t think of one unless it is engineering. Again, big fan of both professions, mad respect and all, but it’s not like they don’t have a tight grasp on systems of power. But hey! Some of them drink beer and eat pork rinds and go to NASCAR, so…