Friday Filosophy v.10.21.2022

Friday Filosophy v.10.21.2022

In Friday Filosophy v.10.21.2022, Founder Ron Slee shares quotes and words of wisdom from the economist Ken Galbraith.

John Kenneth Galbraith OC (October 15, 1908 – April 29, 2006), also known as Ken Galbraith, was a Canadian-American economist, diplomat, public official, and intellectual. His books on economic topics were bestsellers from the 1950s through the 2000s. As an economist, he leaned toward post-Keynesian economics from an institutionalist perspective

Galbraith was a long-time Harvard faculty member and stayed with Harvard University for half a century as a professor of economics. He was a prolific author and wrote four dozen books, including several novels, and published more than a thousand articles and essays on various subjects. Among his works was a trilogy on economics, American Capitalism (1952), The Affluent Society (1958), and The New Industrial State (1967). Some of his work has been criticized by economists Milton FriedmanPaul KrugmanRobert Solow, and Thomas Sowell.

Galbraith was active in Democratic Party politics, serving in the administrations of Franklin D. RooseveltHarry S. TrumanJohn F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson. He served as United States Ambassador to India under the Kennedy administration. His political activism, literary output and outspokenness brought him wide fame during his lifetime. Galbraith was one of the few to receive both the World War II Medal of Freedom (1946) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2000) for his public service and contributions to science. The government of France made him a Commandeur de la Légion d’honneur.

In autumn 1972, Galbraith was an adviser and assistant to Nixon’s rival candidate, Senator George McGovern, in the election campaign for the American presidency. During this time (September 1972) he travelled to China in his role as president of the American Economic Association (AEA) at the invitation of Mao Zedong‘s communist government, together with fellow economists Wassily Leontief and James Tobin. In 1973, Galbraith published an account of his experiences in A China Passage, writing that there was “no serious doubt that China is devising a highly effective economic system,” “dissidents are brought firmly into line in China, but, one suspects, with great politeness,” and “Greater Shanghai … has a better medical service than New York,”. He considered it not implausible that Chinese industrial and agricultural output was expanding annually at a rate of 10 to 11%.

In 1972 he served as president of the American Economic Association. The Journal of Post Keynesian Economics benefited from Galbraith’s support and he served as the chairman of its board from its beginning. 

During the shooting of The World at War, a British television documentary series (1973–74), Galbraith described his experiences in the Roosevelt war administration. Among other things, he spoke about the initial confusion during the first meeting of the major departmental leaders about kapok and its use. Galbraith also talked about rationing and especially about trickery during fuel allocation.

In December 1977, he met the Palauan senator Roman Tmetuchl and eventually became an unpaid adviser to the Palau Political Status Commission. He advocated for minimal financial requirement and infrastructure projects. In 1979 he addressed Palau’s legislature and participated in a seminar for the delegates to the Palau Constitutional Convention. He became the first person to earn honorary citizenship of Palau. 

In 1984, he visited the USSR, writing that the Soviet economy had made “great material progress” as, “in contrast to Western industrial economy,” the USSR “makes full use of its manpower.” 

In 1985, the American Humanist Association named him the Humanist of the Year. The Association for Asian Studies (AAS) conferred its 1987 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies. 

In 1997 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 2000 he was awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom. He also was awarded an honorary doctorate from Memorial University of Newfoundland at the fall convocation of 1999, another contribution to the impressive collection of approximately fifty academic honorary degrees bestowed upon Galbraith. In 2000, he was awarded the Leontief Prize for his outstanding contribution to economic theory by the Global Development and Environment Institute. The library in his hometown of Dutton, Ontario was renamed the John Kenneth Galbraith Reference Library in honor of his attachment to the library and his contributions to the new building.

On April 29, 2006, Galbraith died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, of natural causes at the age of 97, after a two-week stay in a hospital. He is interred at Indian Hill Cemetery in Middletown, Connecticut.

  • 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.
  • In economics, the majority is always wrong.
  • The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.
  • Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.
  • All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.
  • The enemy of the conventional wisdom is not ideas but the march of events.
  • Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.
  • We all agree that pessimism is a mark of superior intellect.
  • Wealth, in even the most improbable cases, manages to convey the aspect of intelligence.
  • We can safely abandon the doctrine of the eighties, namely that the rich were not working because they had too little money, the poor because they had much.
  • Meetings are a great trap. Soon you find yourself trying to get agreement and then the people who disagree come to think they have a right to be persuaded. However, they are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.
  • Much literary criticism comes from people for whom extreme specialization is a cover for either grave cerebral inadequacy or terminal laziness, the latter being a much cherished aspect of academic freedom.

The Time is Now.

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