Washington, D.C. — The Obama administration recently announced the latest round of selections to serve in “key administration posts,” including the appointment of socialist economist Esther Duflo as a member of the President’s Global Development Council.
In total, eight appointments were announced as members for the Council, with Mohamed A. El-Erian nominated as chairman.
“These dedicated and accomplished individuals will be valued additions to my administration as we tackle the important challenges facing America,” Obama stated. “I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead.”
Esther Duflo will work with the other appointees to advise the president regarding economic matters and global development policy. The Global Development Council was created in 2010 by Obama as a means to help steer U.S. development in foreign nations, to foster new and current partnerships and to obtain public input on global development matters.
Duflo, a French socialist, is an internationally-recognized economist that has won numerous awards for her social experiments and work in alleviating poverty. Last year, she was named one of the “Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2012” by Foreign Policy Magazine, and in 2010 won the John Bates Clark medal, which is given to economists under age 40 that make significant contributions to insight on economic matters. In 2009, Duflo received the Calvó-Armengol International Prize, and was also named one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” by Time Magazine in 2011.
One of Duflo’s niches is social economics, a field of study that analyzes how the economy affects communities and society in general, and how to bring about development in those areas to improve upon the living conditions of the people. Specifically, Duflo’s focus is household behavior, education, health issues and policy analyzation. She has worked with economists such as Abhijit Banerjee, Dean Karlan, Michael Kremer, John A. List, and Sendhil Mullainathan to conduct field experiments in these matters to see how economic factors affect societies.
While many in France, Duflo’s home country, will view her appointment as a compliment and a great achievement, others state that it may further paint Obama as being a proponent of socialism and its policies. Just last week, the British publication The Economist mocked Obama by publishing a cover graphic that depicted the president wearing a striped t-shirt with a red scarf and blue beret. The article associated with the photo was entitled “America Turns European.”
“America’s economy may not be in as bad a state as Europe’s, but the failures of its politicians—epitomized by this week’s 11th-hour deal to avoid the calamity of the ‘fiscal cliff’—suggest that Washington’s pattern of dysfunction is disturbingly similar to the euro zone’s,” the publication remarked.
The French outlet France24 lamented The Economist‘s mockery of Euro politics.
“Now, for an American reader, this is an insult to their leaders – getting called a European, in political terms, is slander in the States. For a European reader, it’s even worse,” it wrote. “The question is not how bad their leaders are; they are doing so unquestionably badly that they have become the benchmark for how bad somebody else is doing.”
France24 also admitted that Duflo’s appointment could cause concern for some.
“While Duflo’s nomination will likely be viewed with a sense of pride in France, it comes as Obama’s leadership continues to be dogged by unflattering comparisons in the media to European-style socialism,” it acknowledged.
According to reports, Duflo was born-into a “left-leaning Protestant family.” The now 4o-year-old economist says that she has always sought to fight social injustice and economic inequality in the world.
“I was always conscientious of the gap between my existence and that of the world’s poor,” Duflo told weekly French magazine l’Express in January 2011. “As a child, I was extremely troubled by the complete randomness of chance that I was born in Paris to an intellectual, middle class family, when I could have just as easily been born in Chad. … It inspired in me a sense of responsibility.”
Photo: Kris Krug