J K Galbraith redux

This morning @J_K_Galbraith (or rather, his representative on earth) tweeted me to say:

Time 4 another look at JK Galbraith? @raffasadun @rodrikdani @neilrankinza @TheEconomist @diane1859 http://t.co/YjKfoAcbW4 via @cambup_books
16/12/2013 08:40

I haven’t read Stephen Dunn’s book, [amazon_link id=”0521518768″ target=”_blank” ]The Economics of John Kenneth Galbraith[/amazon_link], although I did meet the great man himself when I was at Harvard. He had stopped teaching by then, but funded a prize for the best teacher in the economics department, selected by a panel of graduate students. The panel members, including me, were invited to dinner at the Galbraith house. My colleagues were all American men and at least a foot taller than me, and Galbraith a foot taller then them, so I couldn’t hear all that much as I stood in the circle gathered around the great man.

[amazon_image id=”0521518768″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Economics of John Kenneth Galbraith: Introduction, Persuasion, and Rehabilitation[/amazon_image]

It’s been a while since I read any Galbraith and I must confess to never having been a huge fan. With hindsight, I had the technically-trained young economist’s suspicion of somebody who used no equations at all in any of his work, and that’s something I hope I’ve grown out of. One must also certainly admire Galbraith’s ability to popularize economics, and recognise that the subject is too important not to engage the public.

Just picking off my shelves a couple at random – [amazon_link id=”1856194159″ target=”_blank” ]The World Economy Since the Wars [/amazon_link]and [amazon_link id=”014103825X” target=”_blank” ]The Great Crash of 1929[/amazon_link], they seem a mixed bag. The latter is a deservedly classic account of the crash, a terrific read. The former – a late (1994) book – is for me one of his weaker books, general political argument not well backed up by the economics; it has scarcely any mention of empirical evidence in it, for one thing. In between are the other classics such asĀ [amazon_link id=”0140173668″ target=”_blank” ]The Culture of Contentment[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id=”0140285199″ target=”_blank” ]The Affluent Society[/amazon_link], writings of genius but stronger on assertion than convincing argument. But I’m open to persuasion.

[amazon_image id=”014103825X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Great Crash 1929[/amazon_image]




3 thoughts on “J K Galbraith redux

  1. Was at LSE when he was honourably doctored. Although not agreeing with some of his ideas have always been a great admirer since reading The Great Crash on publication in the 50’s. He tried to tell it as it was in coherent language and you could understand him. He also attempted to see the Big Picture in a chaotic and uncertain world. Above all he tried to persuade politicians and others that change was constant and the past might be a guide so long as it was recognised that the future could not be the past.

  2. One of the great economists to read and savour and then consider. The thing is you need to read and consider them all as their views and arguments come into favour and then fall away to be replaced by something new. From Keynes, The Great Crash, Bretton Woods, Monetarism and Milton Friedman through Alan Walters and the arguments about the ERM to the present day can I suggest (as a very ordinary student of economics) that the answer is still as far away as ever. And the basic econmic arguments remain as valid!

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