Maddison obituary

In: Uncategorized

30 Apr 2010

I was saddened to read of the death of Angus Maddison in this week’s Economist.  He was hardly a household name but his work was of particular interest to economic historians and macroeconomists interested in long-term trends.

Maddison’s life work was to calculate economic indicators going back into the distant past. For example, if someone wanted an estimate of China’s GDP in 1820 his work was the standard reference.

Obviously producing such estimates is fraught with problems. Apart from anything else the whole system of national accounts, including GDP, was not invented until the 1930s.

My view is that Maddison’s work is valuable but it should always be remembered that the older figures should be seen as rough estimates rather than precise indicators. It is interesting to know, say, how China’s growth compares to India’s over the past two centuries but it is only possible to make a rough estimate.

There is a link to Maddison’s website on the links page of this site.