Tribute

Angus Maddison
OECD Observer

Professor Angus Maddison, who died on  24 April, was an outstanding economist  and OECD legend. In fact, Maddison joined  the OECD even before it existed. In 1952,  he became a member of what was then  the Economic and Statistics Directorate of  the Organisation for European Economic  Co-operation, the OEEC. When the  OEEC became the OECD in 1961, he  took his lifelong obsession with statistics,  measurement and accuracy to the problems  of development.

    Maddison spearheaded the first  comprehensive analysis–he would call it  the first attempted analysis, with his usual  caution–of financial flows to developing  countries.

Following a period as director of the  OECD’s technical assistance programme  to Greece, Portugal, Turkey and Yugoslavia,  Maddison joined the Development Centre  as a research fellow in 1964. Thus began a  relationship that was to continue for the rest  of his life.

Maddison worked on so many issues that I  cannot detail them all here. On behalf of the  Development Centre, he provided technical  assistance to countries as diverse as Brazil  (under a military dictatorship), Guinea,  Mongolia and the Soviet Union. He wrote  a landmark study on growth compared  between Japan and the Soviet Union in 1966.  After a brief period away from the OECD,  Maddison returned in 1971 to compile  the first Yearbook of Education Statistics,  which, of course, is one of the roots  of our renowned PISA. He went on to  study problems of welfare and income  distribution, which had come to the fore  during the post-war boom and the growth  of the welfare state in some countries. These  problems of equity and wealth distribution  are now very much on the agenda in the  emerging economies of the world.

By 1979, Maddison had switched again.  This time, he was behind the publication of  Measuring Employment and Unemployment, a  major contribution to the OECD’s attempts  to standardise definitions of employment  and, hence, provide accurate information.

Measuring Employment and Unemployment  was the last study Angus wrote at the OECD  before his departure to the University of  Groningen in the Netherlands. But it was,  happily, not his last study for us.

On the contrary, Maddison remained firmly  attached to the Development Centre and  to its special position within the OECD,  and it was natural that he turned to the  Development Centre as he prepared the  first of his outstanding works on the  world economy, The World Economy in the  Twentieth Century, published by the OECD  in 1989.

The follow-up study, Monitoring the World  Economy 1820-1992, was a taste of what was  to come in his seminal, The World Economy:  A Millennial Perspective, a remarkable  work that traces the evolution of the world  economy over a thousand years! Two years  later, Maddison revised all his statistics  and the OECD published them, so  that other scholars could build on his  extraordinary work.

Maddison’s excellent works from the OECD  and elsewhere rely on statistics and analysis.  His ability to render a mass of statistical  information into ordinary, concise language  has made his unique body of work accessible  even to the casual, non-specialist reader. This  is an important resource for those tracing  back our economic history, and a lesson that  everyone should take to heart!  In this rich body of work, readers will find  much about China. This is also part of  Angus Maddison’s legacy. Twelve years  ago, the OECD published a Development  Centre study by Maddison that generated  much controversy in the West and some  satisfaction in China. The visionary, but  always evidence-based, Chinese Economic  Performance in the Long Run announced that  China was retrieving its “historical position”  as the world’s largest economy. He repeated  this claim in a 2002 article in OECD  Observer (see www.oecdobserver.org). The  2007 revised and updated edition concluded  that China was catching up so fast that, in  PPP terms, its economy would overtake that  of the US as the world’s largest by 2015 or  earlier. The rest, you might say, is history.

Many of Maddison’s broad economic  forecasts have come true and others will no  doubt do so. What a pity he will not be here  to see them materialise. Angus Maddison  is survived by his wife, Penny, and three  children.   




Economic data

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive print editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • “Nizip” refugee camp visit
    July 2016: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría visits the “Nizip” refugee camp, situated between Gaziantep and the Turkish-Syrian border, accompanied by Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek. The camp accommodates a small number of the 2.75 million Syrians currently registered in Turkey, mostly outside the camps. In his tour of the camp, Mr Gurría visits a school, speaks with refugees and gives a short interview.
  • OECD Observer i-Sheet Series: OECD Observer i-Sheets are smart contents pages on major issues and events. Use them to find current or recent articles, video, books and working papers. To browse on paper and read on line, or simply download.
  • Queen Maxima of the Netherlands gives a speech next to Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto (not pictured) during the International Forum of Financial Inclusion at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico June 21, 2016.
  • How sustainable is the ocean as a source of economic development? The Ocean Economy in 2030 examines the risks and uncertainties surrounding the future development of ocean industries, the innovations required in science and technology to support their progress, their potential contribution to green growth and some of the implications for ocean management.
  • OECD Environment Director Simon Upton presented a talk at Imperial College London on 21 April 2016. With the world awash in surplus oil and prices languishing around US$40 per barrel, how can governments step up efforts to transform the world’s energy systems in line with the Paris Agreement?
  • Happy 10th birthday to Twitter. This 2008 OECD Observer interview with Henry Copeland said you’d do well.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Once migrants reach Europe, countries face integration challenge: OECD's Thomas Liebig speaks to NPR's Audie Cornish.

  • Message from the International Space Station to COP21

  • COP21 Will Get Agreement With Teeth: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría on Bloomberg

  • The carbon clock is ticking: OECD’s Gurría on CNBC

  • If we want to reach zero net emissions by the end of the century, we must align our policies for a low-carbon economy, put a price on carbon everywhere, spend less subsidising fossil fuels and invest more in clean energy. OECD at #COP21 – OECD statement for #COP21
  • They are green and local --It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa. blogs.worldbank.org
  • Pole to Paris Project
  • In order to face global warming, Asia needs at least $40 billion per year, derived from both the public and private sector. Read how to bridge the climate financing gap on the Asian Bank of Development's website.
  • How can cities fight climate change?
    Discover projects in Denmark, Canada, Australia, Japan and Mexico.
  • Climate: What's changed, what hasn't, what we can do about it.
    Lecture by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, hosted by the London School of Economics and Aviva Investors in association with ClimateWise, London, UK, 3 July 2015.

  • Climate change: “We should not disagree when scientists tell us we have a window of opportunity–10-15 years–to turn this thing around” argues Senator Bernie Sanders.

  • In the long-run, the EU benefits from migration, says OECD Head of International Migration Division Jean-Christophe Dumont.
  • Is technological progress slowing down? Is it speeding up? At the OECD, we believe the research from our Future of ‪Productivity‬ project helps to resolve this paradox.
  • Is inequality bad for growth? That redistribution boosts economies is not established by the evidence says FT economics editor Chris Giles. Read more on www.ft.com.
  • Catherine Mann, OECD Chief Economist, explains on Bloomberg why "too much bank lending can slow economic growth".
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .

Most Popular Articles

Poll

What issue are you most concerned about in 2016?

Unemployment
Euro crisis
International conflict
Global warming
Other

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2016