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John Kenneth Galbraith


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John Kenneth Galbraith died a couple of days ago. You will find a good obituary here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story...1764857,00.html

Galbraith was one of JFK's liberal advisers. For example, he was totally opposed to sending troops to Vietnam. He also was against the oil depletion allowance and in favour of a new civil rights act. Does anyone know if Galbraith ever commented on the JFK assassination?

You might find this article by Galbraith's son interesting:

http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/vietnam/exit.htm

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Guest John Gillespie

This is from a June 1999 article in The Irish Examiner with author unattributed. It's all I could come up with for now...

In Dublin I reminded Norman Mailer of a point made by John Kenneth Galbraith, who had served as Kennedy's Ambassador to India. Faced with speculation that the Dallas assassination might have involved a group of conspirators, Galbraith said it was inconceivable that those involved would have maintained a silence over all these years. For one thing, there would be huge money to be made by anyone with the true story to tell of what happened in Texas in November 1963.

Galbraith's observation was a very reasonable one, and I said this to Mailer. "Yes," said the writer, "but what if they are all dead? What if they have all been wasted?" A conspiracy to hide a conspiracy? "Why not?" said Mailer.

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Like Arthur Miller, another leftist who let his politics/personal prejudices bleed into his work--and not to his credit.

http://www.reason.com/links/links050106.shtml

They are only important writers because of their political views. What is it that you don't like about Galbraith's views? It seems to me that he was right about virtually everything he wrote. Luckily for the people of Europe, since 1945 our politicians agreed with him (Thatcher is now completely discredited because of her attempts to ignore the economic arguments of people like Galbraith). It is only a shame that his views (and those of John Maynard Keynes - a man who had a tremendous influence on Galbraith) have not had as much influence in post-war America.

Other good quotations from Galbraith include:

“Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it’s just the opposite.”

“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

“It is a well known fact that America’s founding fathers did not like taxation without representation. It is a lesser known and equally important fact that they did not much like taxation with representation.”

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Ted Kennedy once remarked that his deceased brother "need not be idealized in death beyond what he was in life," but we're starting to get a whiff of that with JKG. Never wrong, you say? Never? That would be quite an accomplishment for a man with a public record as long as his. He sure as hell was wrong about the old Soviet Union. Hell, he all but insisted that in many respects the Soviet economy was superior to our own: "In contrast to the Western industrial economies, it makes full use of its manpower." Yikes. Perhaps he spent a little too much time with his old partner in crime, Dem propagandist Arthur Schlesinger, who returned from a trip to Moscow in 1982 and said Reagan was delusional. "I found more goods in the shops, more food in the markets, more cars on the street -- more of almost everything," he remarked, adding his contempt for "those in the U.S. who think the Soviet Union is on the verge of economic and social collapse, ready with one small push to go over the brink." Sorry, Artie. I think John McAdams nailed it when he noted that "Galbraith, like most leftists, was an elitist who resented the fact that American society is so egalitarian. It is so egalitarian that people are allowed to make choices of which he disapproved. A self-proclaimed socialist, he lived to see his ideas crash and burn." Indeed.

Not being a British subject or authority on the Thatcher years, I'll grant you your contempt, but I find it hard to believe that anyone would wax nostalgic for the pre-Thatcher days of energy blackouts, wildcat transportation strikes, three-day workweeks, and runaway inflation.

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Ted Kennedy once remarked that his deceased brother "need not be idealized in death beyond what he was in life," but we're starting to get a whiff of that with JKG. Never wrong, you say? Never? That would be quite an accomplishment for a man with a public record as long as his. He sure as hell was wrong about the old Soviet Union. Hell, he all but insisted that in many respects the Soviet economy was superior to our own: "In contrast to the Western industrial economies, it makes full use of its manpower." Yikes.

Galbraith was of course right when he suggested that in some respects the Soviet economy was superior to that of capitalism. You quote him as saying as: "In contrast to the Western industrial economies, it makes full use of its manpower." It did, this led to over-employment and low production. This could be seen whenever you visited Soviet shops. They used so many staff it slowed down the process of getting the goods. I remember one incident when I was China of a group of women cutting the grass outside the hotel with scissors. When I asked what was going on, the manager told me it was part of the system that guaranteed everybody a job.

Galbraith and his mentor, John Maynard Keynes, were never communists. They believed in the superiority of capitalism as an economic system. Where they differed from conservatives was the belief that the capitalist system needs help to be efficient and morally acceptable. To his credit, Franklin D. Roosevelt was one of the first politicians to realise the truth of this judgement. Hence the New Deal. Roosevelt was accused by those on the right in America as being a “communist”. In fact, he did more than anyone else to help save America from communism.

Galbraith did not have the same success as Keynes and post-war American presidents have preferred the use of the war economy to save capitalism. However, as I said earlier, the rest of the advanced industrial world did listen to Galbraith and Keynes. It is true that Thatcher abandoned these theories in the 1980s. However, now the British people are aware of the damage she did to our infrastructure, the current Conservative Party is now an advocate of Keynesian economics. It is only a matter of time before the people of America start demanding that their own political parties take note of how to run a modern economy. If not, they will experience a continuing decline in their overall standard of living, although the rich will continue to get richer.

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Guest Stephen Turner
Not being a British subject or authority on the Thatcher years, I'll grant you your contempt, but I find it hard to believe that anyone would wax nostalgic for the pre-Thatcher days of energy blackouts, wildcat transportation strikes, three-day workweeks, and runaway inflation.

This deserves a thread on its own, I shall start one in the History section. I, as a young man, was active though the trade unions throughout this "Awful" time, and dont get all my opinions from a widdle right wing history book.....

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Sorry, Artie. I think John McAdams nailed it when he noted that "Galbraith, like most leftists, was an elitist who resented the fact that American society is so egalitarian. It is so egalitarian that people are allowed to make choices of which he disapproved. A self-proclaimed socialist, he lived to see his ideas crash and burn." Indeed.

Brendan,

Who is this John McAdams? Is he like unto a previously unknown god and such? Also, when you get a chance could you add more to your bio than that you're in PR in Washington, DC? Your privacy is of course paramount, but people will not think much of anyone who works both in Washington and in Public Relations (doesn't everyone in Washington?).

Dan

John McAdams is the leading CIA disinformation agent on the web. His website is here:

http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/home.htm

There is a good assessment of John McAdams by Michael T. Griffith here:

http://ourworld-top.cs.com/mikegriffith1/id151.htm

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Sorry, Artie. I think John McAdams nailed it when he noted that "Galbraith, like most leftists, was an elitist who resented the fact that American society is so egalitarian. It is so egalitarian that people are allowed to make choices of which he disapproved. A self-proclaimed socialist, he lived to see his ideas crash and burn." Indeed.

Brendan,

Who is this John McAdams? Is he like unto a previously unknown god and such? Also, when you get a chance could you add more to your bio than that you're in PR in Washington, DC? Your privacy is of course paramount, but people will not think much of anyone who works both in Washington and in Public Relations (doesn't everyone in Washington?).

Dan

Why? So you can "Tim Gratz" me and do a little opposition research? No thanks. Since your intentions are clearly hostile, you'll just have to settle for a skeleton bio.

FYI, John McAdams is a highly respected, Harvard-educated professor of American History at Marquette University. He runs a lively, moderated JFK newsgroup at alt.assassination.jfk. His conservative blog can be accessed here: http://mu-warrior.blogspot.com/

And yes, horror of horrors, he believes LHO acted alone--which is something close to blasphemy in these parts.

Edited by Brendan Slattery
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Sorry, Artie. I think John McAdams nailed it when he noted that "Galbraith, like most leftists, was an elitist who resented the fact that American society is so egalitarian. It is so egalitarian that people are allowed to make choices of which he disapproved. A self-proclaimed socialist, he lived to see his ideas crash and burn." Indeed.

Brendan,

Who is this John McAdams? Is he like unto a previously unknown god and such? Also, when you get a chance could you add more to your bio than that you're in PR in Washington, DC? Your privacy is of course paramount, but people will not think much of anyone who works both in Washington and in Public Relations (doesn't everyone in Washington?).

Dan

It is less likely that Brendan worries about being "Tim Gratzed" than that there's just not very much to tell. Aside from a couple of passing mentions in right-wing blogs, Mr. Slattery doesn't seem to exist, a fact that could be troubling to any public relations clients he may represent. A public relations man in Washington with so low a profile is rather anomalous, isn't it?

Puzzling to me is that somebody who proclaims a public relations vocation is also so decidedly short on diplomacy and tact. I am only surprised that he didn't have the temerity in this thread to also proclaim and demand "Off topic and decidedly insane. Remove." as he recently did on another thread here. Rather cheeky for a newbie in these parts, one would think; moreso coming from somebody who hopes to influence public opinion. Not off to a good start here, one thinks. The detectable defensiveness suggests that Mr. Slattery fully expects to be flayed for his politics, whereas I suspect he will be flayed, but moreso for his manners.

As for McAdams, he has in the past accused those who hold differing views of child molestation and drug use, without the slightest evidence that it is true. That should give you an indication of his moral character, and his ability to debate. Moreover, he has in the past used false names to attend JFK conferences, no doubt to avoid the vitriol that would be spewed his way by those who know him for what he is. If Mr. Slattery chooses to look up to this vile specimen, that is his business. But given that one is known by the company one keeps, perhaps he could find less nauseating exemplars. Clearly, Mr. Slattery's ability to divine "insanity" by remote viewing extends only as far as his own political prejudices allow.

For those interested in a slightly more nuanced depiction of John Kenneth Galbraith than was offered by the ethically challenged John McAdams, the following from Canada's [conservative] newspaper of record, the Globe & Mail, may prove more enlightening:

John Kenneth Galbraith,97

The witty, Canadian-born iconoclast who advised U.S. presidents believed in government intervention as a countervailing force to unbridled capitalism

SANDRA MARTIN

From Monday's Globe and Mail

In the profession known as the dismal science, Canada has produced a superb economic historian, Harold Innis (whose work, and whose influence on other academics such as Marshal McLuhan, is still internationally revered); a literary economist, Stephen Leacock, who is remembered today mainly as a writer and humorist; and John Kenneth Galbraith.

A prolific and wide-ranging intellect, Prof. Galbraith's reputation rests on his talents as a writer of masterful prose, his influence as an adviser to Democratic U.S. presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt through Lyndon Johnson, and his work as a pragmatic liberal economist who believed in government intervention as a countervailing economic force to unbridled capitalism. "I'm for a socially pain-free, decently egalitarian society," Prof. Galbraith said last year in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

Witty, urbane, sophisticated and interested in the worlds of politics, literature and diplomacy, Prof. Galbraith became a U.S. citizen in 1937 (in the days before the United States allowed dual citizenship) and served as president John F. Kennedy's ambassador to India. Political economist Stephen Clarkson described Prof. Galbraith as "Canada's greatest contribution to civilizing American capitalism."

Although he never won the Nobel Prize, and he didn't spawn any schools of economic thought, as did his early hero, John Maynard Keynes, or his rival Milton Friedman, Prof. Galbraith was awarded nearly 50 honorary degrees, was twice given the Presidential Medal of Freedom (by Harry S Truman in 1948 and Bill Clinton in 2000) wrote some 40 books, including American Capitalism: The Concept of Countervailing Power (1952), The Affluent Society (1958) and The New Industrial State (1967) and taught at Harvard for more than 30 years.

William Watson, associate professor and chair of the department of economics at McGill University, noting Prof. Galbraith's extraordinary talent for self-promotion, said he admired the man's "great literary style, his understated wit and his perverse way of looking at the world." He didn't play by the normal academic rules, said Prof. Watson, putting his ideas into play in economics and having them tested by the profession. Instead, he "went to an outside audience where he was spectacularly successful and there was probably some resentment because of that, but had he played by the normal rules, his ideas would probably have been shot down," said Prof. Watson. "I don't begrudge him for following his talent. It was a wonderful talent."

"He was shunned for many years by the profession, although he was very popular beyond the profession," countered Edward Safarian, emeritus professor of economics at the University of Toronto. "Then he became so prominent that the profession couldn't disregard him, so they elected him president of the American Economic Association [in 1972]. And he insisted that the annual meeting be held in Toronto, the first time it had ever met outside the United States."

When asked years later by Prof. Safarian to name his best work, Prof. Galbraith quickly nominated his early volume on price controls, which he had written as a result of his work on the Price and Income Controls Commission for the Roosevelt administration during the Second World War. "He said it was the best in theoretical terms, the best in empirical terms, but nobody paid any attention to it, so he decided he would write for the general public about economic issues and when the general public paid attention, so would the profession," said Prof. Safarian. "And that was exactly what happened."

Prof. Galbraith's most recent biographer, Harvard economist Richard Parker, author of John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics, described the pragmatic Galbraithian method as dealing with issues as they emerge. "You don't proceed from an abstract, atemporal, ageographical model, but from what you see around you and what you can feel around you," Prof. Parker said last year at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where he lectures on public policy.

John Kenneth (Ken) Galbraith was born in the back bedroom of a two-storey farmhouse in Iona Station, a hamlet in southwestern Ontario near the northern shore of Lake Erie that was bisected by a major railroad line connecting Buffalo and Detroit, when Wilfrid Laurier was prime minister of what was then the Dominion of Canada. The Galbraiths, who had immigrated from Scotland in 1819, were affectionately memorialized by Prof. Galbraith in The Scotch.

He was the third of five children (three girls and two boys, although one sister died of whooping cough before Ken was born) of schoolteacher and farmer William Archibald (Archie) Galbraith and Sarah Catherine (Kate) Galbraith (née Kendall). His parents weren't rich, but neither were they poor, owning two farms that together amounted to 150 acres. Although the Galbraiths were staunchly Liberal in their politics, Archie Galbraith was restless and populist enough to become active in the United Farmers of Ontario, which won the provincial election of 1919. Young Ken was diligent about completing his chores and an avid reader who always remembered the momentous day when the local library changed its lending policy from two books every two weeks to unlimited borrowing.

His mother died after a short illness when he was 15, a tragedy that he mentioned only briefly in his memoirs, A Life, when he wrote: "My mother, a beautiful, affectionate and decidedly firm woman, died when her children -- my brother, my two sisters, and I -- were not yet all in their teens." The family was devastated. Archie, remote in his grief, never remarried and became even more active in community affairs. Ken's school work deteriorated drastically. Gangly and awkward at sports, Prof. Galbraith travelled the six miles to school in a horse and buggy with his siblings and was frequently late for class. Humiliated by his clumsiness in the compulsory cadet corps, he switched to St. Thomas High School to repeat his senior year.

After he finally graduated from high school in 1926, he went to the Ontario Agricultural College (now the University of Guelph), about 80 miles northeast of home, because his father decided he should. Years later, Mr. Galbraith referred to the OAC in an interview in Time magazine as "not only the cheapest but probably the worst college in the English-speaking world."

He spent five years at OAC partly because of his inadequate high-school education and partly because he was diagnosed with "an incipient tuberculosis." What made the difference for this decidedly indifferent student was the academic requirement that all students had to write weekly compositions. And this is where the bright but physically inept 6-foot-8 Prof. Galbraith came into his own.

Buoyed by his newly discovered aptitude for the written word. Prof. Galbraith helped found a college newspaper, The OACIS, which gave him a touch of campus celebrity and the nickname, Spike, which he much preferred to his high-school moniker, Soupy. He began freelancing, producing a few pieces on agricultural issues for local papers, The St. Thomas Times Journal and The Stratford Beacon Herald, which earned him $5 per column and enabled him to make a trip to the 1930 International Livestock Exhibition in Chicago, a trip he said later was "the greatest triumph of my college days."

The Depression was beginning to eradicate farmers' hard-won prosperity, evidence that Mr. Galbraith experienced on a visceral level and that led him to conclude that "something was terribly wrong with the way agricultural markets worked," according to his most recent biographer, Prof. Parker. The problem, an opportunity to do something about it and a potential direction for his own future, coalesced when Prof. Galbraith spotted a poster advertising graduate fellowships in agricultural economics at the University of California. He applied and was accepted. Late in July, 1931, his father drove him to Port Stanley where he boarded the Lake Erie Steamer for its daily run to Cleveland and met up with the nephew of a family acquaintance. The two young men drove across the country in a gas-guzzling 1926 Oakland sedan to Berkeley, and Prof. Galbraith essentially said goodbye to his native country.

Last year, he told The Globe that he often thought back to his days on the farm, particularly the hard physical labour it demanded. His vision was clearly not clouded by nostalgia. "I consider one of the fortunate parts of my life escape from the routines of early agriculture."

Berkeley demanded more from him intellectually and offered him many more opportunities. When he was asked by The Globe why he stayed in the United States rather than returning to Canada after he graduated with his doctorate in agricultural economics in 1934, he replied: "I had a choice between Washington and Ottawa, and my hesitation was non-existent. I was personally invited by William Lyon Mackenzie King and the alternative was the Roosevelt administration and the New Deal. And I have no recollection of a problematical or passionate struggle over the choice."

He went from California to a five-year teaching contract at Harvard University in Boston, working summers for president Roosevelt's Agricultural Adjustment Administration. In 1937, he married Catherine (Kitty) Atwater, a Radcliffe student. They went to Europe on their honeymoon, where he hoped to meet with Maynard Keynes. Prof. Keynes had suffered a heart attack and so that ambition was thwarted.

When his contract at Harvard expired, he taught at Princeton and then moved to Chicago to work in the U.S. Farm Bureau. Early in 1941, he became deputy administrator of the Office of Price Administration, responsible for setting U.S. prices to prevent wartime inflation and encourage the production of military supplies. John S. Gambs, one of his biographers, described Prof. Galbraith as "virtually the economic czar of the United States until he left in 1943."

After the Second World War, Prof. Galbraith studied the effectiveness of the Allied bombing of Germany as director of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey. He co-founded the liberal interest group Americans for Democratic Action in 1947 and was a member of Fortune magazine's board of editors from 1943 to 1948. In the late 1940s, he went back to teaching at Harvard and writing books. He was appointed the Paul M. Warburg chair in economics in 1939, a position he held until his retirement in 1975. His colleagues, perhaps with some envy, called him "the most famous professor at Harvard."

In addition to his extensive teaching and prolific writing careers, Prof. Galbraith worked as a speechwriter for Adlai Stevenson's failed 1952 and 1956 presidential campaigns, later admitting he felt he had erred in tailoring Mr. Stevenson's message too much to the "intellectual elite."

During a 1956 visit to poverty-stricken India, he realized that a society begins to produce "unnecessary" goods as it becomes wealthier, with corporations creating artificial demand for their products through advertising. After serving as an economic adviser to John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign, he contributed the line, "Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate," to Mr. Kennedy's inauguration speech and was subsequently named ambassador to India.

After president Kennedy was assassinated, Prof. Galbraith worked as an adviser and speechwriter for Lyndon Johnson, drafting speeches for "The Great Society" legislation, which was aimed at eradicating poverty and racism. After splitting with president Johnson over the Vietnam War, he campaigned for Eugene McCarthy in 1968 and then worked for Democratic presidential candidates George McGovern in 1972 and Morris Udall in 1976. He supported Senator Edward Kennedy's effort to run against Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Following his retirement, Prof. Galbraith remained in Cambridge, Mass., and spent his summers in Newfane, Vt. He continued to criticize prevailing economic thought, attacking control of U.S. politics by the wealthy in 1992's The Culture of Contentment. In The Good Society in 1996, he set forth his vision of a just, equitable society politically organized to help the poor. As recently as 2004, when he was 95, he wrote The Economics of Innocent Fraud: Truth for Our Time, an essay arguing that bureaucratic companies manipulate consumers and the government.

John Kenneth Galbraith was born in Iona Station, Ont., on Oct. 15, 1908. He died Saturday night in Cambridge, Mass., after a short illness. He was 97. He is survived by his wife Kitty, three sons, John Alan, Peter and James and their families, and a sister, Catherine Denholm of Toronto.

Perhaps we should now contrast and compare the Galbraith record of achievement itemized above with that of John McAdams to discern just who truly is the champion of egalitarianism, and who represents an "elitist" view of the world.

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Don't understand the reference to "Tim Gratz," though[...]

Here you go.

Who is Brendan Slattery anyway? His biography is highly suggestive, but sparse. In any case, I thank him for his link to John McAdams' blog, from which I have derived much amusement. "Marquette Warrior" indeed. :rolleyes:

Edited by Owen Parsons
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