I happen to think that Esther Duflo's work (with coauthors) on randomized field trials of practical development policies deserves respect, and I have no particular problem with her being this year's recipient of the John Bates Clard Award for 2010, the award given to the best under 40 American (either citizen or working here) economist. As both a current MIT faculty member as well as Ph.D. from there, she continues a streak that has been in place since 1999. Here is the list (the prize was once every two years before this year, starting MIT's Paul Samuelson in 1947).
1999 Andrei Shleifer, MIT Ph.D.
2001 Matthew Rabin, MIT Ph.D.
2003 Steven Levitt, MIT Ph.D.
2005 Daron Acemoglu, current MIT faculty
2007 Susan Athey, formerly received tenure on MIT faculty (now at Harvard)
2009 Emmanuel Saez, MIT Ph.D.
2010 Esther Duflo, MIT Ph.D. and current faculty
I have bigger problems with some of these people than others, but it must be asked if somehow there is a self-feeding control and domination of this selection process going on.