Monday, 1 May 2006

Death of big-government liberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith

Economist John Kenneth Galbraith has died age 97. Thank goodness. One is not suposed to speak ill of the dead, but the interventionist economics peddled by John Kenneth Galbraith meddled more seriously with more millions than any other dopy economist since his idol John Maynard Keynes, and quite literally made the world a poorer place. His 'classic' book The Great Crash manufactured more myths about the Great Depression than you can poke a central bank at, and his jeremiads against affluence and wealth and on behalf of big government unfortunately influenced far too many impressionable young liberals into becoming big government advocates themselves.

His influence was almost entirely negative. Observes Pete Boettke at The Austrian Economists,
his core ideas are either restated Veblen, warmed over Keynes, or Marxist platitudes. It is not clear that any of his ideas are original enough to warrant that he be placed in that company of critics of the market economy. But there can be little doubt that between 1950-1970, he perhaps more than anyone popularized the teachings of Marx, Veblen and Keynes and made them acceptable to generations of Harvard students and members of the intelligentsia in the English speaking world.
Galbraith's best and worst began during and after World War II. At the wartime Office of Price Administration he received his first taste of economy-wide meddling; he liked it. At the same time he was not unafraid to challenge conventional wisdom -- something seen thoughout his career, and a phrase he himself coined; his unorthodoxy and innate intelligence combined to help produce the post-war 'United States Strategic Bombing Survey' which analysed the efficacy of the wartime long-range strategic bombing, and found its success vastly over-rated, a conclusion unwelcome to US Air Force strategists. Galbraith remarked at the time to Orvil Anderson, deputy chief of the Army Air Force in Europe, "General, this is just a matter of intellectual honesty." The general replied, "Goddamn it, Ken, you carry intellectual honesty to extremes."

The Wall Street Journal has a summary of bloggers' obits for Galbraith. William Anderson from the Mises Institute promises a "respectful, but truthful" obit shortly on behalf of Galbraith's Austrian adversaries.

LINKS: John Kenneth Galbraith, writer, economist dies - Boston Globe
Bloggers debate Galbraith's legacy - Wall Street Journal

Would you rather be known as politically influential, famous among the intellectual elite, or making a lasting scientific contribution? -
The Austrian Economists

TAGS: Economics, History-Twentieth_Century, Obituary


  1. As a young student, Galbraith featured prominently in my curriculum. It was only many years later that I realised what I actually was exposed to and why he was so in favor.

  2. you are an idiot


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