I am a once and maybe future freelance public policy consultant. I spent 11 years as a fellow at the Center for Global Development and nine before that at the Worldwatch Institute. In 2013, I served as Senior Economic Advisor at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. I am now a Senior Advisor at Open Philanthropy.
I know most about economic development in poorer countries. I’ve written about microfinance, third world debt, environmental taxes, the impact of foreign aid, quantifying trade barriers, the importance of policies other than foreign aid for development, and more.
But I identify myself less by expertise than style. I like to probe ideas, to test them against each other and the evidence, then teach others what I have learned. My fluency in English and mathematics mean few analytical paths are inaccessible to me.
I believe there are few simple truths in social policy. So if you are someone who is deciding what projects to fund, or what policies to advocate or enact, you are more likely to succeed if you start with an openness to all views. The relevant arguments may range from mathematical to moral; a full understanding requires the capacity to understand and critique them all. Wisdom comes from probing the bases for different perspectives and the frictions between them. Of course, time is finite, so the trick is to balance the value of learning more with the need to make judgments in reasonable time.
You can see my style in the Commitment to Development Index; in my Guide for the Perplexed on the impact of aid on growth; in my prize-winning econometric software and documentation; in The Natural Wealth of Nations; in the widely praised Due Diligence: An Impertinent Inquiry into Microfinance; and in the virtually unprecedented open book blog through which I wrote the latter, sharing drafts, questions, and discoveries as I went.
I earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Harvard, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1990. I spent the following year on scholarship at the University of Cambridge, where I discovered my lifelong interests in economics and public policy and abandoned my mathematics program. I have been self-taught since. The popularity of my programs and related pedagogic writings make me one of the top young economists in the world according to one algorithm. I spent academic year 1998–99 on a Fulbright in Vietnam.
I play ragtime and classical piano after a fashion. I like English folk dancing. I put enough solar panels on my house to make it a net source of electricity. I live in Washington, DC, with my formerly cute kids, my amazing wife, and no cats.
If I can help you, contact me.