Economics, Peace, and Laughter
John Kenneth Galbraith
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After such books as The Great Crash 1929 and The Affluent Society it is hardly surprising that Professor Galbraith has often ranked, in literary surveys, as the best non-fiction writer in English. Whatever defence he himself offers for 'The Language of Economies', most of us remain convinced that the subject has not always been presented in the most limpid and digestible prose. But Galbraith has always been different: he has possessed the knack of clarifying the antics of capitalism without entirely endorsing the pretensions of socialism.
The essays in this volume are concerned with economic issues, with peace and foreign policy, with his own recollections of contemporary statesmen and writers, and with delightful memories of California, Vermont and Switzerland. And Galbraith's observations on the 'Great Socialist Revival' under Nixon or on economics as a system of belief are as lucid and humorous as his account of Khrushchev meeting the richest men in America or John Steinbeck urging him not to become an ambassador.
classical assent the rich speak more authoritatively in markets than the poor. And there may be friction or aberrations in the response of institutions to the ultimate authority of the individual. But none of this is systemic. The individual is ultimately and fundamentally in command; he cannot be at war with an economy he controls for he cannot be at war with himself. When producer sovereignty is assumed the result is very different. This sovereignty is exercised, we have seen, by large and
steady How of promises that inflation would soon end. Advising the President of the United States on economic policy, since few Presidents find the subject at all interesting, is tedious work. The tedium is relieved, after a fashion, by the liturgical functions of the office. Every week in the year, some convocation of businessmen, bankers, in vestment counselors, market researchers or economic necro mancers is assembling somewhere in the United States. Often, combining business with tax
spur," the U.S. Steel Corporation said in its annual report a few years ago. It was echoing one of the most articulate prophets of the capitalist faith, the late Clarence Randall, also a steel man, who had declared (in A Creed for Free E nterprise ) that, "If we seek to keep government out of business, we must not ourselves invite it in ... Free enter prise means private capital, and the man who does not risk is unworthy to share the rewards." Because risk is inherent in capitalism, there is,
take a $zoo million participation in the capital structure of the rail road as a first step. Legislation was introduced to allow the government to stake out a $750 million capita] position in American railroads in general. Once this was passed, the government was to be asked in to Penn Central for a Jot more. This dramatic rush to socialism won the initial approval of the Republican Administration. Everything, indeed, seemed greased and ready to go. There is, however, a dog-in-the-manger
possible because no one is aware of how little is obtained for the outlay involved. But secrecy is not the only protection from public scrutiny. The sheer number and variety of such overseas operations in all their different national settings, coupled with the revolving door nature of higher Washington officialdom, also foster an onymity. Few men in the executive branch remain in office long enough to have knowledge of the affairs of which, nomi nally, they are in charge. Legislators who must