I just came across a great article in the New York Times. A few decades ago, economics mattered greatly with John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman directly influencing policy decisions. In the last few decades, the increasingly technical math has made economics more rigorous at the cost of losing its grand ideas.
The only practitioners who have been getting public attention are those studying relatively cute subjects. David Leonhartd went about finding the next great economist. He did not find the new Keynes, but did come across an interesting team who work at the Jameel Poverty Action Lab t MIT led by Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee. They rely on randomized trials to assess the efficacy of various aid programs to make sure the money is well spent.