I am only slight familiar with the winners of this year's Nobel Prize in Economics, Robert Engle and Clive Granger. Both are econometricians who developed methods for separating long-term trends from random fluctuations. However, I am not so sure the committee picked the right person.
An economist who is not well known in the States, but I think should be considered is Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto. I recently read de Soto's book, The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Truimphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else. This is a fanatastic book. Unlike the esoteric work of contemporary economics which seems to be largely self-referential and has little concern for society, De Soto's work is a response to the call James Buchanan made for a more classical kind of economics, what used to be called political economy. Buchanan writes:
Most fundamentally, I am disturbed by an apparent public failure to appreciate and to understand the relationships between the constitutional structure that defines the parameters of social-economic-political life and the patterns of outcomes that we observe. In the new century, more than ever, we must attend to the rules of the game.
He argues that economics has lost its way and substituted reason and humanity with a disguised attempt of looking like a natural science with mathematical abstraction. de Soto's work is one which is both reasoned and humane. Going to the field, de Soto analyzes how property rights work for the average individual. He studies the squatting settlements that ring every major city in the developing world. Because these squatters lack property rights, they cannot use their homes--many of which their families have live in for mulitiple generations--as sources of collaterized capital to make investments, educate their children, or build a business. He starts from the ground and then builds a theory about how successful liberal democracies are built. Perhaps, those who are engaged in nation-building should retain the services of this indiivdual.