Sunday, April 30, 2006

from your mouth to god’s ear

There is something wonderful in seeing a wrong-headed majority assailed by truth.

Those are the words of John Kenneth Galbraith, who passed yesterday at the age of 97.

JKG was one heck of thinker and one heck of a writer. His ideas were so insightful they now seem cliché. Take, for example, his 1958 book The Affluent Society, as summarized in the New York Times obit:

In it, he depicted a consumer culture gone wild, rich in goods, but poor in the social services that make for community. He argued that America had become so obsessed with overproducing consumer goods that it had increased the perils of both inflation and recession by creating an artificial demand for frivolous or useless products, by encouraging overextension of consumer credit and by emphasizing the private sector at the expense of the public sector.

To me, Galbraith is like the Oscar Wilde of economics—but with better teeth. He was witty, maybe a little arrogant, but never without principle. . . and he probably took hits for all three. At the risk of making this eulogyblog, I have more to say over at capitoilette.


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