John Kenneth Galbraith: Statist Advocate
By: Thomas E. Brewton
Widely known economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who recently died at age 97, was one of the radical left’s most articulate and prolific advocates for state control of economic and social activity.
Living through most of the 20th century, Professor Galbraith was the embodiment of the era’s atheistic and materialistic religion of socialism, a description he proudly accepted. Naturally, he was a member of the Harvard economics department, the fountainhead of socialistic economics in the United States. From early 20th century Progressivism, to open advocacy of socialism in the 1920s and 1930s, through post-World War II liberalism, he was probably the most quoted and most admired single icon
of American left-wing intellectuals.
The Washington Post’s obituary observed: “One of the most influential [of Galbraith's books] was “The Affluent Society” (1958), which argued that overproduction of consumer goods was harming the public sector and depriving Americans of such benefits as clean air, clean streets, good schools and support for the arts.
“Dr. Galbraith was generally considered to have been an apostle of the theories advanced by British economist John Maynard Keynes: that government could promote full employment and a stable economy by stimulating spending and investment with adjustments in interest and tax rates, and deficit financing.”
Galbraith’s self-assurance not withstanding, Keynes’s prescriptions failed miserably; unemployment never fell below 14% until our military mobilization for World War II.
Professor Galbraith was called an economist, but more accurately he should be identified as a liberal sociologist and propagandist. Few of his “economic” ideas are used or respected by economists. Even the New York Times, the journal-of-record for American socialism, admits this.
As the Times obituary put it, “… other economists, even many of his fellow liberals, did not generally share his views on production and consumption, and he was not regarded by his peers as among the top-ranked theorists and scholars.”
“…..Later, in “The New Industrial State” (1967), he tried to trace the shift of power from the landed aristocracy through the great industrialists to the technical and managerial experts of modern corporations. He called for a new class of intellectuals and professionals to determine policy.”
“……In 1973 he published “Economics and the Public Purpose,” in which…. [he] called for a “new socialism,” with more steeply progressive taxes; public support of the arts; public ownership of housing, medical and transportation facilities; and the conversion of some corporations and military contractors into public corporations.”
Michael Harrington, then head of the American Socialist Party, wrote in his 1968 “Toward a Democratic Left: A Radical Program for a New Majority”:
“The very character of modern technology, [Harvard economist] Galbraith says, renders the old market mechanisms obsolete. In these circumstances planning is obligatory. The state must manage the economy in order to guarantee sufficient purchasing power to buy the products of the industrial system.”
This is typical Galbraithian “wisdom” that, at best, was counter-productive and more often disastrous.
Harrington’s book was published as price levels were quadrupling under President Nixon’s embrace of Keynesian, socialist economics, leading OPEC to impose its oil embargo and catapult prices to an inflation-adjusted $95 per barrel. On the eve of this unfolding catastrophe, the liberal media lauded the Keynesian-oriented Council of Economic Advisors for having finally learned to exert perfect, fine-tuning socialistic control over the economy.
Economic stagflation – soaring inflation coupled with a moribund economy – soon thereafter revealed the hollowness of this hubristic claim. Savings and loan institutions went bankrupt. Stock market prices fell to fractions of replacement costs for company assets, giving rise to the take-over boom by stock market raiders that dismembered companies and threw long-loyal workers into the streets. Mothers were compelled to leave home for full-time employment and fathers had to moonlight on extra jobs, just to pay monthly bills. With fewer parents at home to supervise their children, crime and drug abuse rose.
Yet to this day Galbraith’s ruinous prescriptions remain central tenets of American liberals’ socialistic religious catechism.
Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets. His weblog is THE VIEW FROM 1776 (www.thomasbrewton.com)
Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.