出自“John Kenneth Galbraith”的语录

I react pragmatically. Where the market works, I'm for that. Where the government is necessary, I'm for that. I'm deeply suspicious of somebody who says, "I'm in favor of privatization," or, "I'm deeply in favor of public ownership." I'm in favor of whatever works in the particular case.

John Kenneth Galbraith (15 October 190829 April 2006) was a Canadian-American economist and author.

The choice is between courses that are almost equally good or equally bad. It is the narrowest decisions that are most ardently debated.


There is certainly no absolute standard of beauty. That precisely is what makes its pursuit so interesting.
Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.
Wealth, in even the most improbable cases, manages to convey the aspect of intelligence.
When you see reference to a new paradigm you should always, under all circumstances, take cover.
I believe the greatest error in economics is in seeing the economy as a stable, immutable structure.
  • In the usual (though certainly not in every) public decision on economic policy, the choice is between courses that are almost equally good or equally bad. It is the narrowest decisions that are most ardently debated. If the world is lucky enough to enjoy peace, it may even one day make the discovery, to the horror of doctrinaire free-enterprisers and doctrinaire planners alike, that what is called capitalism and what is called socialism are both capable of working quite well.
    • "The American Economy: Its Substance and Myth," quoted in Years of the Modern (1949), edited by J.W. Chase
  • You roll back the stones, and you find slithering things. That is the world of Richard Nixon.
  • There is certainly no absolute standard of beauty. That precisely is what makes its pursuit so interesting.
    • The New York Times Magazine (9 October 1960)
  • In the really hard cases you're choosing between the disastrous and the catastrophic, and it's hard to tell someone which one is which.
  • Total physical and mental inertia are highly agreeable, much more so than we allow ourselves to imagine. A beach not only permits such inertia but enforces it, thus neatly eliminating all problems of guilt. It is now the only place in our overly active world that does.
    • Foreword to The Beach Book by Gloria Steinem (1963); reprinted in Galbraith's A View from the Stands (1986)
  • Clearly the most unfortunate people are those who must do the same thing over and over again, every minute, or perhaps twenty to the minute. They deserve the shortest hours and the highest pay.
    • Made to Last (1964), ch. 4
  • People are the common denominator of progress. So, paucis verbis, no improvement is possible with unimproved people, and advance is certain when people are liberated and educated. It would be wrong to dismiss the importance of roads, railroads, power plants, mills, and the other familiar furniture of economic development. At some stages of development — the stage that India and Pakistan have reached, for example — they are central to the strategy of development. But we are coming to realize, I think, that there is a certain sterility in economic monuments that stand alone in a sea of illiteracy. Conquest of illiteracy comes first.
    • Economic Development (1964), ch. 2
  • Meetings are a great trap. … they are indispensable when you don't want to do anything.
    • Ambassador's Journal (1969), p. 84
  • You will find that [the] State [Department] is the kind of organisation which, though it does big things badly, does small things badly too.
    • Quoted in conversation with Charles Frankel, High on Foggy Bottom: an outsider's inside view of the Government (1969), p. 11
  • In economics, hope and faith coexist with great scientific pretension and also a deep desire for respectability.
    • The New York Times Magazine (7 June 1970)
  • Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.
    • Economics, Peace and Laughter (1971), p. 50
  • Do not be alarmed by simplification, complexity is often a device for claiming sophistication, or for evading simple truths.
    • The Age of Uncertainty (1977), BBC Television series (also published in book form, non verbatim version)
  • Much literary criticism comes from people for whom extreme specialization is a cover for either grave cerebral inadequacy or terminal laziness, the latter being a much cherished aspect of academic freedom.
    • "H.L. Mencken," The Washington Post (14 September 1980); reprinted in A View from the Stands (1986)
  • Any country that has Milton Friedman as an adviser has nothing to fear from a few million Arabs.
    • on Friedman's advising of the Israeli government, "The Private Man and the Public Life; Interview With Galbraith", The Washington Post' (26 April 1981)
  • Mr. David Stockman has said that supply-side economics was merely a cover for the trickle-down approach to economic policy—what an older and less elegant generation called the horse-and-sparrow theory: If you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows.
    • "Recession Economics," New York Review of Books, Volume 29, Number 1 (4 February 1982)
  • Wealth, in even the most improbable cases, manages to convey the aspect of intelligence.
    • The Sydney Morning Herald (22 May 1982), as cited in The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1993), edited by Robert Andrews, p. 972
  • Any consideration of the life and larger social existence of the modern corporate man... begins and also largely ends with the effect of one all-embracing force. That is organization — the highly structured assemblage of men, and now some women, of which he is a part. It is to this, at the expense of family, friends, sex, recreation and sometimes health and effective control of alcoholic intake, that he is expected to devote his energies.
    • "Corporate Man," The New York Times (22 January 1984)
  • Increasingly in recent times we have come first to identify the remedy that is most agreeable, most convenient, most in accord with major pecuniary or political interest, the one that reflects our available faculty for action; then we move from the remedy so available or desired back to a cause to which that remedy is relevant.
    • "The Convenient Reverse of Logic in Our Time," commencement address, American University (1984); reprinted in A View from the Stands (1986)
  • In any great organization it is far, far safer to be wrong with the majority than to be right alone.
    • The Guardian [UK] (28 July 1989)
  • In all life one should comfort the afflicted, but verily, also, one should afflict the comfortable, and especially when they are comfortably, contentedly, even happily wrong.
    • The Guardian [UK] (28 July 1989)
  • There is something wonderful in seeing a wrong-headed majority assailed by truth.
    • The Guardian [UK] (28 July 1989)
  • In the first place I identify this ["the equilibrium of poverty"] with primitive agriculture, and two factors have been at work there. One is, of course, population growth. If you were a poor farmer in India, Pakistan, or in much of Africa, you would want as many sons as possible as your social security. They would keep you out of the hot sun and give you some form of subsistence in your old age. So, you have pressure for population growth that is, itself, the result of the extreme economic insecurity. This is something which hasn't been sufficiently emphasized.
  • One must always have in mind one simple fact — there is no literate population in the world that is poor, and there is no illiterate population that is anything but poor.
    • Interview with John Newark (1990) from Interviews with John Kenneth Galbraith (2004), ed. James Ronald Stanfield and Jacqueline Bloom Stanfield
  • We can safely abandon the doctrine of the eighties, namely that the rich were not working because they had too little money, the poor because they had much.
    • The Guardian [UK] (20 November 1991)
  • The great dialectic in our time is not, as anciently and by some still supposed, between capital and labor; it is between economic enterprise and the state.
    • A History of Economics (1991), ch. 21
  • People who are in a fortunate position always attribute virtue to what makes them so happy.
    • The Guardian [UK] (23 May 1992)
  • There's a certain part of the contented majority who love anybody who is worth a billion dollars.
    • The Guardian [UK] (23 May 1992)
  • The contented and economically comfortable have a very discriminating view of government. Nobody is ever indignant about bailing out failed banks and failed savings and loans associations... But when taxes must be paid for the lower middle class and poor, the government assumes an aspect of wickedness.
    • The Guardian [UK] (23 May 1992)
  • We now in the United States have more security guards for the rich than we have police services for the poor districts. If you're looking for personal security, far better to move to the suburbs than to pay taxes in New York.
    • The Guardian [UK] (23 May 1992)
  • It is my guiding confession that I believe the greatest error in economics is in seeing the economy as a stable, immutable structure.
    • A Journey Through Economic Time (1994)
  • Modesty is a vastly overrated virtue.
    • Interview with Lorie Conway (1997) from Interviews with John Kenneth Galbraith (2004) ed. James Ronald Stanfield and Jacqueline Bloom Stanfield. Conway saw these words on a framed needlepoint, entitled "Galbraith's First Law," at Galbraith's home
  • When you see reference to a new paradigm you should always, under all circumstances, take cover. Because ever since the great tulipmania in 1637, speculation has always been covered by a new paradigm. There was never a paradigm so new and so wonderful as the one that covered John Law and the South Sea Bubble — until the day of disaster.
    • As quoted in "Galbraith on crashes, Japan and Walking Sticks" by Ben Laurance and William Keegan, in The Observer (21 June 1998)
  • Let's begin with capitalism, a word that has gone largely out of fashion. The approved reference now is to the market system. This shift minimizes — indeed, deletes — the role of wealth in the economic and social system. And it sheds the adverse connotation going back to Marx. Instead of the owners of capital or their attendants in control, we have the admirably impersonal role of market forces. It would be hard to think of a change in terminology more in the interest of those to whom money accords power. They have now a functional anonymity.
  • Hitler also anticipated modern economic policy . . . by recognizing that a rapid approach to full employment was only possible if it was combined with wage and price controls. That a nation oppressed by economic fear would respond to Hitler as Americans did to F.D.R. is not surprising.
  • The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.
  • The drive toward complex technical achievement offers a clue to why the US is good at space gadgetry and bad at slum problems.

The Great Crash, 1929 (1954 and 1997)

In the autumn of 1929 the mightiest of Americans were, for a brief time, revealed as human beings.
  • Writing is a long and lonesome business; back of the problems in thought and composition hover always the awful questions: Is this the page that shows the empty shell? Is it here and now that they find me out?
    • Introduction, Section I, p. ix
  • I never enjoyed writing a book more; indeed, it is the only one I remember in no sense as a labor but as a joy.
    • Introduction, Section I, p. x
  • SOME YEARS, like some poets,and politicians and some lovely women, are singled out for fame far beyond the common lot, and 1929 was clearly such a year.
    • Chapter I, A Year To Remember, p. 1
  • No one was responsible for the great Wall Street crash. No one engineered the speculation that preceded it. Both were the product of free choice and decision of hundreds of thousands of individuals.
    • Chapter I, A Year To Remember, p. 4
  • In the autumn of 1929 the mightiest of Americans were, for a brief time, revealed as human beings.
    • Chapter I, A Year To Remember, p. 5
  • This view that the action of the Federal Reserve authorities in 1927 was responsible for the speculation and collapse which followed has never been seriously shaken. There are reasons why it is attractive. It is simple, and it exonerates both the American people and the economic system from substantial blame... Yet the explanation obviously assumes that people will always speculate if only they can get the money to finance it. Nothing could be farther from the case. There were times before and there has been long periods since when credit was plentiful and cheap -- far cheaper than in 1927-29 -- and when speculation was negligible. Nor was speculation out of control after 1927, except that it was beyond the reach of men who did not want in the least to control it. The explanation is a tribute only to a recurrent preference, in economic matters, for formidable nonsense.
    • Chapter I, "Vision and Boundless Hope and Optimism" p. 10
  • Of all the weapons in the Federal Reserve arsenal, words were the the most unpredictable in their consequences.
    • Chapter III, Something Should Be Done?, Section IV, p. 38
  • In 1929 the discovery of the wonders of the geometric series struck Wall Street with a force comparable to the invention of the wheel.
    • Chapter IV, In Goldman Sachs We Trust, Section VI, p. 63
  • To a few alarmed observers it seemed as though Wall Street were by way of devouring all the money of the entire world. However, in accordance with the cultural practice, as the summer passed, the sound and responsible spokesmen decried not the increase in brokers' loans, but those who insisted on attaching significance to this trend.
    • Chapter V, The Twilight of Illusion, Section I, p. 68
  • It was not hard to persuade people that the market was sound; as always in such times they asked only that the disturbing voices of doubt be muted and that there be tolerably frequent expressions of confidence.
    • Chapter V, The Twilight of Illusion, Section II, p. 70
  • The values of a society totally preoccupied with making money are not altogether reassuring.
    • Chapter V, The Twilight of Illusion, Section IV, p. 76
  • However, it is safe to say that at the peak in 1929 the number of active speculators was less — and probably was much less — than a million.
    • Chapter V, The Twilight of Illusion, Section V, p. 83
  • In these matters, as often in our culture, it is far, far better to be wrong in a respectable way than to be right for the wrong reasons.
    • Chapter V, The Twilight of Illusion, Section VII, p. 85
  • Of all the mysteries of the stock exchange there is none so impenetrable as why there should be a buyer for everyone who seeks to sell.
    • Chapter VI, The Crash, p. 104
  • No one knew, but it cannot be stressed too frequently, that for effective incantation knowledge is neither necessary nor assumed.
  • The Coolidge Bull market was a remarkable phenomenon. The ruthlessness of its liquidation was, in its own way, equally remarkable.
    • Chapter VI, Things Become More Serious, Section I, p 109
  • To the man who held stock on margin, disaster had only one face and that was falling prices. But now prices were to be allowed to fall. The speculator's only comfort, henceforth, was that his ruin would be accomplished in an orderly and becoming manner.
    • Chapter VI, Things Become More Serious, Section II, p 110
  • Our political life favors the extremes of speech; the man who is gifted in the arts of abuse is bound to be a notable, if not always a great figure.
    • Chapter VI, Things Become More Serious, Section II, p 110
  • The market had reasserted itself as an impersonal force beyond the power of any person to control, and, while this is the way markets are supposed to be, it was horrible.
    • Chapter VI, Things Become More Serious, Section II, p 111
  • Despite a flattering supposition to the contrary, people come readily to terms with power. There is little reason to think that the power of the great bankers, while they were assumed to have it, was much resented. But as the ghosts of numerous tyrants, from Julius Caesar to Benito Mussolini will testify, people are very hard on those who, having had power, lose it or are destroyed. Then anger at past arrogance is joined with contempt for the present weakness. The victim or his corpse is made to suffer all available indignities.
    • Chapter VI, Things Become More Serious, Section IV, p 115
  • A banker need not be popular; indeed a good banker in a healthy capitalist society should probably be much disliked. People do not wish to trust their money to a hail-fellow-well-met but to a misanthrope who can say no.
    • Chapter VI, Things Become More Serious, Section IV, p 115
  • Men have been swindled by other men on many occasions. The autumn of 1929 was, perhaps, the first occasion when men succeeded on a large scale in swindling themselves.
    • Chapter VII, Things Become More Serious, Section VIII, p. 130
  • Clerks in downtown hotels were said to be asking guests whether they wished the room for sleeping or jumping. Two men jumped hand-in-hand from a high window in the Ritz. They had a joint account.
    • Chapter VII, Things Become More Serious, Section VIII, p. 131-132
  • One of the uses of depression is the exposure of what auditors fail to find.
  • Men meet together for many reasons in the course of business. They need to instruct or persuade each other. They must agree on a course of action. They find thinking in public more productive or less painful than thinking in private. But there are at least as many reasons for meetings to transact no business. Meetings are held because men seek companionship or, at a minimum, wish to escape the tedium of solitary duties. They yearn for the prestige which accrues to the man who presides over meetings, and this leads them to convoke assemblages over which they can preside. Finally, there is the meeting which is called not because there is business to be done, but because it is necessary to create the impression that business is being done. Such meetings are more than a substitute for action. They are widely regarded as action.
  • In the early days of the crash it was widely believed that Jesse L. Livermore, a Bostonian with a large and unquestionably exaggerated reputation for bear operations, leading a syndicate that was driving the market down.
    • Chapter VIII, Aftermath I, Section III, p. 141
  • However, Hoover had converted the simple business ritual of reassurance into a major instrument of public policy.
  • Our political tradition sets great store by the generalized symbol of evil. This is the wrongdoer whose wrongdoing will be taken by the public to be the secret propensity of a whole community or class.
  • Wall Street's crime, in the eyes of its classical enemies, was less its power than its morals.
  • In accordance with an old but not outworn tradition, it might now be wise for all to conclude that crime, or even misbehavior, is the act of an individual, not the predisposition of a class.
  • Moreover, regulatory bodies, like the people who comprise them, have a marked life cycle. In youth they are vigorous, aggressive, evangelistic, and even intolerant. Later they mellow, and in old age — after a matter of ten or fifteen years — they become, with some exceptions, either an arm of the industry they are regulating or senile.
  • The fact was that American enterprise in the twenties had opened its hospitable arms to an exceptional number of promoters, grafters, swindlers, impostors, and frauds.
    • Chapter IX, Cause and Consequence, Section V, p 178
  • Both of these measures were on the side of increasing spendable income, though unfortunately they were largely without effect. The tax reductions were negligible except in the higher income brackets; businessmen who promised to maintain investment and wages, in accordance with a well-understood convention, considered the promise binding only for the period within which it was not financially disadvantageous to do so.
    • Chapter IX, Cause and Consequence, Section V, p 183
  • The advisers and counselors were not, however, analyzing the danger or even the possibility. They were serving only as the custodians of bad memories.
    • Chapter IX, Cause and Consequence, Section V, p 184
  • And after they have started the action will always look, as it did to the frightened men in the Federal Reserve Board in February 1929, like a decision in favor of immediate as against ultimate death. As we have seen, the immediate death not only has the disadvantage of being immediate but of identifying the executioner.
    • Chapter IX, Cause and Consequence, Section VII, p 190
  • At best, in such depression times, monetary policy is a feeble reed on which to lean.
    • Chapter X, Cause and Consequence, p. 190
  • But there is still a considerable difference between a failure to do enough that is right and a determination to do much that is wrong.
    • Chapter IX, Cause and Consequence, Section VIII, p 192
  • But now, as throughout history, financial capacity and political perspicacity are inversely correlated. Long run salvation by men of business has never been highly regarded if it means disturbance of orderly life and convenience in the present. So inaction will be advocated in the present even though it means deep trouble in the future. Here, at least equally with communism, lies the threat to capitalism. It is what causes men who know that things are going quite wrong to say that things are fundamentally sound.
    • Chapter X, Cause and Consequence, p. 199

The Affluent Society (1958)

  • Authorship of any sort is a fantastic indulgence of the ego. It is well no doubt, to reflect on how much one owes to others.
    • Foreword p. x
  • Wealth is not without its advantages, and the case to the contrary, although it has often been made, has never proved widely persuasive.
    • Chapter 1, Section I, p. 13
  • The enemy of the conventional wisdom is not ideas but the march of events.
    • Chapter 2, Section IV, p. 21
  • Ideas are inherently conservative. They yield not to the attack of other ideas but to the massive onslaught of circumstance with which they cannot contend.
    • Chapter 2, Section VI, p. 26
  • Even the word depression itself was the terminological product of an effort to soften the connotation of deep trouble. In the last century, the term crisis was normally employed. With time, however, this acquired the connotation of the misfortune it described.
    • Chapter 4, Section IV, p. 45
  • Ideas do not respect national frontiers, and this is especially so where language and other traditions are in common.
    • Chapter 5, Section I, p. 47
  • Marx profoundly affected those who did not accept his system. His influence extended to those who least supposed they were subject to it.
    • Chapter 6, Section III, p. 63
  • The massive reduction in risk that is inherent in the development of the modern corporation has been far from fully appreciated.
    • Chapter 8, Section II, p. 87
  • More die in the United States of too much food than of too little.
    • Chapter 9, Section II, p. 103
  • We do not manufacture wants for goods we do not produce.
    • Chapter 9, Section VI, p. 113
  • One man's consumption becomes his neighbor's wish.
    • Chapter 11, Section II, p. 125
  • It is a far, far better thing to have a firm anchor in nonsense than to put out on the troubled seas of thought.
    • Chapter 11, Section IV, p. 130
  • In recent times no problem has been more puzzling to thoughtful people than why, in a troubled world, we make such poor use of our affluence.
    • Chapter 12, Section VII, p. 145
  • A businessman who reads Business Week is lost to fame. One who reads Proust is marked for greatness.
    • Chapter 13, Section V, p. 155
  • Very important functions can be performed very wastefully and often are.
    • Chapter 17, Section I, p. 190
  • The family which takes its mauve and cerise, air conditioned, power-steered, and power braked automobile out for a tour passes through cities that are badly paved, made hideous by litter, blighted buildings, billboards, and posts for wires that should long since have been put underground.
    • Chapter 18, Section I, p. 199
  • The greater the wealth the thicker will be the dirt.
    • Chapter 18, Section II, p. 201
  • In a community where public services have failed to keep abreast of private consumption things are very different. Here, in an atmosphere of private opulence and public squalor, the private goods have full sway.
    • Chapter 18, Section II, p. 203
  • Simple minds, presumably, are the easiest to manage.
    • Chapter 19, Section V, p. 218
  • "Poverty" Pitt exclaimed "is no disgrace but it is damned annoying." In the contemporary United States it is not annoying but it is a disgrace.
    • Chapter 23, Section VI, p. 258

The New Industrial State (1967)

  • Only men of considerable vanity write books; consistently therewith, I worried lest the world were exchanging an irreplaceable author for a more easily purchased diplomat.
    • Foreword p. vii
  • In economics, unlike fiction and the theater, there is no harm in a premature disclosure of the plot: it is to see the changes just mentioned and others as an interlocked whole.
    • Chapter I, Section 3, p. 6
  • The inevitable counterpart of specialization is organization. This is what brings the work of specialists to a coherent result. If there are many specialists, this coordination will be a major task. So complex, indeed, will be the job of organizing specialists that there will be specialists on organization and organizations of specialists on organization. More perhaps than machinery, massive and complex business organizations are the tangible manifestation of advanced technology.
    • p. 16
  • By all but the pathologically romantic, it is now recognized that this is not the age of the small man.
    • Chapter III, Section 5, p. 32
  • Only in very recent times has the average man been a source of savings.
    • Chapter IV, Section 2, p. 37
  • In the assumption that power belongs as a matter of course to capital, all economists are Marxians.
    • Chapter V, Section 2, p. 49
  • The real accomplishment of modern science and technology consists in taking ordinary men, informing them narrowly and deeply and then, through appropriate organization, arranging to have their knowledge combined with that of other specialized but equally ordinary men. This dispenses with the need for genius. The resulting performance, though less inspiring, is far more predictable.
    • Chapter VI, Section 2, p. 62
  • There is no name for all who participate in group decision-making or the organization which they form. I propose to call this organization the Technostructure.
    • Chapter VI, Section 7, p. 71
  • Men are, in fact, either sustained by organization or they sustain organization.
    • Chapter VIII, Section 5, p. 96
  • Economic theory is the most prestigious subject of instruction and study. Agricultural economics, labor economics and marketing are lower caste fields of study.
    • Chapter X, Section 5, p. 122 (Mr. Galbraith was originally an agricultural economist...)
  • That one never need to look beyond the love of money for explanation of human behavior is one of the most jealously guarded simplifications of our culture.
    • Chapter XII, Section 1, p. 142
  • The notion of a formal structure of command must be abandoned. It is more useful to think of the mature corporation as a series of concentric circles.
    • Chapter XIII, Section 1, p. 149
  • While it will be desirable to achieve planned results, it will be even more important to avoid unplanned disasters.
    • Chapter XV, Section 2, p. 169
  • Oligopoly is an imperfect monopoly. Like the despotism of the Dual Monarchy, it is saved only by its incompetence.
    • Chapter XVI, Section 2, p. 182
  • There is an insistent tendency among serious social scientists to think of any institution which features rhymed and singing commercials, intense and lachrymose voices urging highly improbable enjoyment, caricatures of the human esophagus in normal and impaired operation, and which hints implausibly at opportunities for antiseptic seduction as inherently trivial. This is a great mistake. The industrial system is profoundly dependent on commercial television and could not exist in its present form without it.
    • Chapter XVIII, Section 5, p. 208
  • It is not the individual's right to buy that is being protected. Rather, it is the seller's right to manage the individual.
    • Chapter XIX, Section 4, p. 217
  • THE INDUSTRIAL SYSTEM requires that prices be under effective control. And it seeks the greatest possible influence over what buyers take at the established prices.
    • Chapter XX, Section 1, p. 219 (Caps as per text...)
  • In fact, the wage-price spiral is the functional counterpart of unemployment. The latter occurs when there is insufficient demand; the spiral operates when there is too much and also,unfortunately, when there is just enough.
    • Chapter XXII, Section 4, p. 255
  • The overall effect of the rise of the industrial system is greatly to reduce the union as a social force. But it will not disappear or become entirely unimportant.
    • Chapter XXIV, Section 1, p. 275
  • Agreeable as it is to know where one is proceeding, it is far more important to know where one has arrived.
    • Chapter XXVIII, Section 3, p. 321
  • A drastic reduction in weapons competition following a general release from the commitment to the Cold War would be sharply in conflict with the needs of the industrial system.
    • Chapter XXIX, Section 7, p. 339-340
  • All, the intelligent and stupid, diligent and idle, have been swept along on a current of increased output that, in the usual case, owed nothing whatever to their efforts.
    • Chapter XXX, Section 7, p. 353
  • THE GENIUS of the industrial system lies in its organized use of capital and technology. This is made possible, as we have duly seen, by extensively replacing the market with planning.
    • Chapter XXXI, Section 1, p. 354
  • Educators have yet to realize how deeply the industrial system is dependent upon them.
    • Chapter XXXIII, Section 4, p. 375
  • Nothing in our time is more interesting than the erstwhile capitalist corporation and the erstwhile Communist firm should, under the imperatives of organization, come together as oligarchies of their own members.
    • Chapter XXXV, Section 2, p. 390
  • No grant of feudal privilege has ever equaled, for effortless return, that of the grandparent who bought and endowed his descendants with a thousand shares of General Motors or General Electric.
    • Chapter XXXV, Section 3, p. 394
  • But it can be laid down as a rule that those who speak most of liberty are least inclined to use it.
    • Chapter XXXV, Section 5, p. 398

The United States (1971)

"The United States" in New York magazine (1971-11-15); reprinted in A View from the Stands (1986)
  • Among all the world's races, some obscure Bedouin tribes possibly apart, Americans are the most prone to misinformation. This is not the consequence of any special preference for mendacity, although at the higher levels of their public administration that tendency is impressive. It is rather that so much of what they themselves believe is wrong.
  • The Senate has unlimited debate; in the House, debate is ruthlessly circumscribed. There is frequent discussion as to which technique most effectively frustrates democratic process. However, a more important antidote to American democracy is American gerontocracy. The positions of eminence and authority in Congress are allotted in accordance with length of service, regardless of quality. Superficial observers have long criticized the United States for making a fetish of youth. This is unfair. Uniquely among modern organs of public and private administration, its national legislature rewards senility.
  • In the United States, though power corrupts, the expectation of power paralyzes.
  • The traveler to the United States will do well, however, to prepare himself for the class-consciousness of the natives. This differs from the already familiar English version in being more extreme and based more firmly on the conviction that the class to which the speaker belongs is inherently superior to all others.
  • Once the visitor was told rather repetitively that this city was the melting pot; never before in history had so many people of such varied languages, customs, colors and culinary habits lived so amicably together. Although New York remains peaceful by most standards, this self-congratulation is now less often heard, since it was discovered some years ago that racial harmony depended unduly on the willingness of the blacks (and latterly the Puerto Ricans) to do for the other races the meanest jobs at the lowest wages and then to return to live by themselves in the worst slums.

Power and the Useful Economist (1973)

"Power and the Useful Economist" (1973); also in Annals of an Abiding Liberal and The Essential Galbraith
  • When the modern corporation acquires power over markets, power in the community, power over the state and power over belief, it is a political instrument, different in degree but not in kind from the state itself. To hold otherwise — to deny the political character of the modern corporation — is not merely to avoid the reality. It is to disguise the reality. The victims of that disguise are those we instruct in error. The beneficiaries are the institutions whose power we so disguise. Let there be no question: economics, so long as it is thus taught, becomes, however unconsciously, a part of the arrangement by which the citizen or student is kept from seeing how he or she is, or will be, governed.
  • The decisive weakness in neoclassical and neo-Keynesian economics is not the error in the assumptions by which it elides the problem of power. The capacity for erroneous belief is very great, especially where it coincides with convenience. Rather, in eliding power — in making economics a nonpolitical subject — neoclassical theory destroys its relation to the real world. In that world, power is decisive in what happens. And the problems of that world are increasing both in number and in the depth of their social affliction. In consequence, neoclassical and neo-Keynesian economics is relegating its players to the social sidelines where they either call no plays or use the wrong ones. To change the metaphor, they manipulate levers to which no machinery is attached.
  • This is what economics now does. It tells the young and susceptible (and also the old and vulnerable) that economic life has no content of power and politics because the firm is safely subordinate to the market and the state and for this reason it is safely at the command of the consumer and citizen. Such an economics is not neutral. It is the influential and invaluable ally of those whose exercise of power depends on an acquiescent public. If the state is the executive committee of the great corporation and the planning system, it is partly because neoclassical economics is its instrument for neutralizing the suspicion that this is so.

Money: Whence It Came, Where It Went (1975)

  • There is wonder and a certain wicked pleasure in these giddy ascents and terrible falls, especially as they happen to other people.
    • Chapter I, Money, p. 4
  • The study of money, above all other fields in economics, is the one in which complexity is used to disguise truth or to evade truth, not to reveal it.
    • Chapter I, Money, p. 5
  • A constant in the history of money is that every remedy is reliably a source of new abuse.
    • Chapter II, Of Coins and Treasure
  • The process by which banks create money is so simple that the mind is repelled.
    • Chapter III, Banks, p. 18
  • In 1736, Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette printed an apology for its irregular appearence because its printer was "with the Press, labouring for the publick Good, to make Money more plentiful." The press was busy printing money.
    • Chapter V, Of Paper, p. 54
  • Why is anything intrinsically so valueless so obviously desirable?
    • Chapter VI, An Instrument of Revolution, p. 62
  • In numerous years following the war the Federal government ran a heavy surplus. It could not pay off it's debt, retire its securities, because to do so meant there would be no bonds to back the national bank notes. To pay off the debt was to destroy the money supply.
    • Chapter VIII, The Great Compromise, p. 90
  • Truth has anciently been called the first casualty of war. Money may, in fact, have priority.
    • Chapter VIII, The Great Compromise, p. 92
  • Seaboard Air Line, which was thought by numerous innocents to provide a foothold in aviation, was another favorite, although, in fact, it was a railroad.
    • Chapter IX, The Price, p. 106
  • During the last century and until 1907, the United States had panics, and that, unabashedly, is what they were called. But, by 1907, the language was becoming, like so much else, the servant of economic interest. To minimize the shock to confidence, businessmen and bankers had started to explain that any current economic setback was not really a panic, only a crisis. They were undeterred by the use of this term in a much more ominous context—that of the ultimate capitalist crisis—by Marx. By the 1920's, however, the word crisis had also acquired the fearsome connotation of the event it described. Accordingly, men offered reassurance by explaining that it was not a crisis, only a depression. A very soft word. Then the Great Depression associated the most frightful of economic misfortunes with that term, and economic semanticists now explained that no depression was in prospect, at most only a recession. In the 1950s, when there was a modest setback, economists and public officials were united in denying that it was a recession—only a sidewise movement or a rolling readjustment. Mr. Herbert Stein, the amiable man whose difficult honor it was to serve as the economic voice of Richard Nixon, would have referred to the panic of 1893 as a growth correction.
    • Chapter IV, The Price.
  • Power is as power does.
    • Chapter X, The Impeccable System, p. 118
  • No feature of American—to some extent of Anglo-Saxon—politics is so certain as the tendency of politicians to become first the captives, then the agents, of their opposition. ...In the 1960s, liberal Democrats... urged peace and international amity but continued the Cold War and plunged the country into Vietnam. ...partly because they feared being called appeasers and crypto-Communists by the right. Richard Nixon, having impeccable credentials as a Cold Warrior, moved towards peace or accommodation with Moscow and Peking and withdrew... from Vietnam. Thus on foreign policy he outflanked his liberal opposition. When Professor Milton Friedman proposed a guaranteed income for the poor, it was considered (quite correctly) an act of creative imagination. When a Republican administration proposed it to Congress, it was a mark of conservative statemanship. When George McGovern, running for President, advanced a close variant... it was condemned by conservatives as the dream of a fiscal maniac. As known and stalwart defenders of the dollar, the Republicans were able, in the early 1970s, to devalue it... twice. For anyone suspected of a more flexible attitude towards the integrity of the dollar, such action would have been exceedingly perilous.
    • Chapter X, The Impeccable System.
  • The foresight of financial experts was, as so often, a poor guide to the future.
    • Chapter XI, The Fall, p. 136
  • In the fifteen years following the First World War, and especially in the immediate aftermath, the industrial nations exploited this new freedom in remarkably diverse fashion. The French followed the line of least resistance with, on the whole, the best results. The British followed the line of greatest wounds. The Germans so handled matters, or so yielded to circumstances, as to produce the greatest inflation of modern times. The United States, by a combination of mismanagement and non-management, produced the greatest depression. In all the long history of money, the decade of the 1920s—extended by a few years to the consequences—is perhaps the most instructive.
    • Chapter XII: The Ultimate Inflation.
  • If all else fails immortality can always be assured by adequate error.
    • Chapter XIII, The Self Inflicted Wounds, p. 176
  • Economic life, as always, is a matrix in which result becomes cause and cause becomes result.
    • Chapter XIV, When The Money Stopped, p. 192
  • What was needed was a policy that increased the supply of money available for use and then ensured its use. Then the state of trade would have to improve.
    • Chapter XVI, The Coming of J.M. Keynes, p. 217
  • Foresight is an imperfect thing — all prevision in economics is imperfect.
    • Chapter XIX, The New Economics At High Noon, p. 269
  • In dealing with Mr. Nixon, it is not easy to be unfair. He invites and justifies all available criticism.
    • Chapter XX, Where It Went, p. 285
  • With the American failure came world failure.
    • Chapter XX, Where It Went, p. 293
  • Those who yearn for the end of capitalism should pray for government by men who believe that all positive action is inimical to what they call thoughtfully the fundamental principles of free enterprise.
    • Chapter XXI, Afterword, p. 312
  • Nothing is more portable than rich people and their money
    • Attributed without source

The Age of Uncertainty (1977)

  • Few things in life can be so appalling as the difference between a dry antiseptic statement of a principle by a well spoken man in a quiet office, and what happens to people when that principle is put into practice.
    • BBC TV Adaptation, Episode 1
  • Ideas may be superior to vested interest. They are also very often the children of vested interest.
    • Chapter 1, p. 11
  • It's a rule worth having in mind. Income almost always flows along the same axis as power but in the opposite direction.
    • Chapter 1, p. 13
  • People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage. Intellectual myopia, often called stupidity, is no doubt a reason. But the privileged also feel that their privileges, however egregious they may seem to others, are a solemn, basic, God-given right. The sensitivity of the poor to injustice is a trivial thing compared with that of the rich.
    • Chapter 1, p. 22
  • Economists are generally negligent of their heroes.
    • Chapter 1, p. 27
  • Because of his compassion Owen was always in trouble with his partners. They would have much preferred a tough, down-to-earth manager who would get a days work out of the little bastards.
  • Of all classes the rich are the most noticed and the least studied.
    • Chapter 2, p. 44
  • American university presidents are a nervous breed; I have never thought well of them as a class.
    • Chapter 2, p. 60
  • The masters thought they were loved until one day one of their favorites farted loudly while serving dinner and the next day was gone. The very first manifestation of the classless society is the disappearance of the servant class.
    • Chapter 2, p. 62
  • The man who is admired for the ingenuity of his larceny is almost always rediscovering some earlier form of fraud. The basic forms are all known, have all been practiced. The manners of capitalism improve. The morals may not.
    • Chapter 2, p. 75
  • I've long believed alas, that in highly organized industrial societies, capitalist or socialist, the stronger tendency is to converge — that if steel or automobiles are wanted and must be made on a large scale, the process will stamp its imprint on the society, whether that me be Magnitogorsk or Gary, Indiana.
    • Chapter 2, p. 84
  • Conscience is better served by a myth.
    • Chapter 4, p. 111
  • If inheritance qualifies one for office, intelligence cannot be a requirement.
    • Chapter 5, p. 137
  • Money is a singular thing. It ranks with love as man's greatest source of joy. And with death as his greatest source of anxiety. Over all history it has oppressed nearly all people in one of two ways: either it has been abundant and very unreliable, or reliable and very scarce.
    • Chapter 6, p. 161
  • Who is king in the world of the blind when there isn't even a one eyed man?
    • Chapter 6, p. 180
  • Few can believe that suffering, especially by others, is in vain. Anything that is disagreeable must surely have beneficial economic effects.
    • Chapter 7, p. 211
  • He enlarged perceptibly the scope for debate, liberalized appreciably the intellectual and cultural life of the country and proclaimed the obvious truth that, after an atomic exchange, little would distinguish the Communist ashes from the capitalist ashes.
  • The myth that holds that the great corporation is the puppet of the market, the powerless servant of the consumer, is, in fact one of the devices by which its power is perpetuated.
    • Chapter 9, p. 258
  • The privileged have regularly invited their own destruction with their greed.
    • Chapter 10, p. 293
  • Man, at least when educated, is a pessimist. He believes it safer not to reflect on his achievements; Jove is known to strike such people down.
    • Chapter 12, p. 324
  • But there is merit even in the mentally retarded legislator. He asks the questions that everyone is afraid to ask for fear of seeming simple.
    • Chapter 12, p. 328
  • When people put their ballots in the boxes, they are, by that act, inoculated against the feeling that the government is not theirs. They then accept, in some measure, that its errors are their errors, its aberrations their aberrations, that any revolt will be against them. It's a remarkably shrewd and rather conservative arrangement when one thinks of it.
    • Chapter 12, p. 330
  • All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.
    • Chapter 12, p. 330

The Ashes of Capitalism and the Ashes of Communism (1986)

A nuclear war does not defend a country and it does not defend a system. I've put it the same way many times; not even the most accomplished ideologue will be able to tell the difference between the ashes of capitalism and the ashes of communism.
"The Ashes of Capitalism and the Ashes of Communism," interview (undated) with John M. Whiteley in Quest for Peace: an Introduction (1986), ed. John Whiteley
  • A nuclear war does not defend a country and it does not defend a system. I've put it the same way many times; not even the most accomplished ideologue will be able to tell the difference between the ashes of capitalism and the ashes of communism.
  • Get the process of negotiation away from the small specialized group that some people have called the "nuclear theologians," who in effect said this is a complicated issue of seeing how little we can give away, how much we can extract from the other side; it's highly specialized. Only a few people can understand the nature of these weapons, the delivery systems, the targeting, the nature of the MIRV and the CRUISE, on down, and the MX. This kept the whole discussion to a very limited group of people who, in a way, had assumed responsibility for saying whether we should live or die.
  • The huge capacity to purchase submission that goes with any large sum of money, well, this we have. This is a power of which we should all be aware.
  • Both we and the Soviets face the common threat of nuclear destruction and there is no likelihood that either capitalism or communism will survive a nuclear war.

The Culture of Contentment (1992)

  • Excessive acreages of unused buildings, commercial and residential were created. The need for such construction, given the space demands of modern business bureaucracy, was believed to be without limit. In later consequence, the solvency of numerous banks, including that of some of the nation's largest and most prestigious institutions, was either fatally impaired or placed in doubt. The lending of both those that failed or were endangered and others was subject, by fear and example to curtailment. The construction industry was severely constrained and its workers left unemployed. A general recession ensued. Any early warning as to what was happening would have been exceptionally ill received, seen as yet another invasion of the benign rule of laissez faire and a specific interference with the market. However in keeping with the exceptions to this rule, there would be eventual salvation in a government bailout of the banks. Insurance of bank deposits — a far from slight contribution to contentment — was permissible, as well as assurance that were a bank large enough, it would not be allowed to fail. A preventive role by government was not allowed; eventual government rescue was highly acceptable.
    • Ch. 5
  • The present age of contentment will come to an end only when and if the adverse developments that it fosters challenge the sense of comfortable well-being,
    • Ch. 13

Washington Post interview (1994)

  • One of the things I argue in my book [A Journey Through Economic Time] is the extent to which people go to avoid rational decisions – the very large role of mental deficiency in economic history. Generally, people have been very resistant to attributing a causal role in history to stupidity.

Booknotes interview (1994)

Interview with Brian Lamb, on Booknotes C-SPAN (13 November 1994)
  • I was studying agriculture, how to produce better chickens, better cattle, better horses — horses in those days — better fruit, better vegetables. This was in the early years of the Great Depression, and the thoughts crossed my mind that there wasn't a hell of a lot of use producing better crops and better livestock if you couldn't sell them, that the real problem of agriculture was not efficiency in production but the problem of whether you could make money after you produced the stuff. So I shifted from the technical side to, first, the study of agricultural economic issues and then on to economics itself.
  • Broadly speaking, [Keynesianism means] that the government has a specific responsibility for the behavior of the economy, that it doesn't work on its own autonomous course, but the government, when there's a recession, compensates by employment, by expansion of purchasing power, and in boom times corrects by being a restraining force. But it controls the great flow of demand into the economy, what since Keynesian times has been the flow of aggregate demand. That was the basic idea of Keynes so far as one can put it in a couple of sentences.
  • Going back to the most ancient times, national well-being, the national prestige depended on territory. The more territory a country had, the more income revenue there was, the more people there were to be mobilized for arms strength. So we had an enormous sense of territorial conflict and territorial integrity, and that was unquestionably a part of the cause of war, coupled with the fact that there was a disposition in that direction by the landed class, a disposition to think of territorial acquisition and territorial defense and to think of the peasantry as a superior form of livestock which could be used for arms purposes.
  • I react to what is necessary. I would like to eschew any formula. There are some things where the government is absolutely inevitable, which we cannot get along without comprehensive state action. But there are many things — producing consumer goods, producing a wide range of entertainment, producing a wide level of cultural activity — where the market system, which independent activity is also important, so I react pragmatically. Where the market works, I'm for that. Where the government is necessary, I'm for that. I'm deeply suspicious of somebody who says, "I'm in favor of privatization," or, "I'm deeply in favor of public ownership." I'm in favor of whatever works in the particular case.
  • I write with two things in mind. I want to be right with my fellow economists. After all, I've made my life as a professional economist, so I'm careful that my economics is as it should be. But I have long felt that there's no economic proposition that can't be stated in clear, accessible language. So I try to be right with my fellow economists, but I try to have an audience of any interested, intelligent person.


  • The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.
    • Though often attributed to Galbraith, as early as 1988 in U.S. News & World Report, the earliest publications of this statement, in The Bulletin (1984) and Reader's Digest (1985) attributes it to Ezra Solomon.

Quotes about John Kenneth Galbraith

Sorted alphabetically by author or source
  • In the mid-1960s, I was a typical left-wing undergraduate student at Caltech. For any social problem that arose, I had no doubt that the appropriate cure involved some form of government intervention. So, naturally, Galbraith was my hero, and I was therefore greatly ex cited when he came to my school in 1964 to give a speech in support of Lyndon Johnson’s campaign for the presidency. I confess that I cannot remember a lot of the details of the speech, but I know that I was disappointed. In particular, I recall feeling that his arguments for bigger government were not compelling. No doubt, this event started me on the road to doubting the wisdom of governmental activism and appreciating the wonders of free markets.
    When I discussed this experience with Ken after more than thirty years, his surprising reaction was to apologize for what must have been a bad speech. He said that he especially regretted his endorsement of Lyndon Johnson, who was later to become anathema to liberals because of his pursuit of the Vietnam War. If it had been me, I would have apologized mainly for Johnson’s Great Society programs.
    • Robert Barro, Nothing Is Sacred (2002), Ch. 1 : Thoughts on Friends and Other Noteworthy Persons
  • If there were justice in the world, John Kenneth Galbraith would rank as the twentieth century’s most influential American economist. He has published several books that are among the best analyses of modern US history , played a key role in midcentury policymaking, and advised more presidents and senators than would seem possible in three lifetimes. Yet today, Galbraith’s influence on economics is small, and his influence on US politics is receding by the year.
  • Galbraith propounded no such easily summarized doctrine. The closest we can get is: "the world is complicated, and both right-wing ideology and the conventional wisdom that is this age's self-image are terribly wrong." He offered critiques that required you to read and understand old theories, not new theories that allowed you to dismiss everything prior as irrelevant.
    The result? Nearly all economists today are Paul Samuelson's children. Many are Keynes' children. Friedman, Robert Lucas, Robert Solow, and James Tobin all have plenty of descendants. But there are few Galbraithians on the ground. Would economics as a discipline be stronger if the 50-year-old and 30-year-old economists had a better appreciation of Galbraith? Almost surely. Will the winds of economic fashion shift and cause economists to appreciate Galbraith once again? For that to happen, an astute young economist would have to devote himself to "mathing up" chapters of The Affluent Society and The New Industrial State and publishing them in journals -- not a likely prospect in today's risk-adverse academic environment.
  • At the beginning of the twenty-first century, it has become clear who John Kenneth Galbraith really is: Sisyphus, constantly pushing the boulder of social-democratic enlightenment up the hill. But the hill, it turns out, is too steep, and Galbraith not mighty enough.
  • The general educated—the public that watches McNeil/Lehrer or read The New Yorker—thinks of Galbraith as an important economic thinker. Although Galbraith is a Harvard economics professor, however, he has never been taken seriously by his academic colleagues, who regard him as more of a “media personality”. The contrast between public and professional perception became particularly acute in 1967, when Galbraith made a grand statement of his ideas about economics in The New Industrial State, a book that he hoped would come to be regarded as being in the same league as John Maynard Keynes’s General Theory or even Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. The book was rapturously reviewed in the popular press, but it met with indifference from the academics. Galbraith’s book wasn’t what they considered real economic theory. Not incidentally, the academics were right in believing that The New Industrial State could be safely ignored.
    • Paul Krugman, Peddling Prosperity (1994), Introduction: Looking for Magicians
  • The example of Galbraith is not an accidental one: in many ways, Galbraith broke important new ground in the relationship between politics and economics. He was the first celebrity economist (where the definition of a celebrity is the usual one: someone who is famous for being famous). His rise as a policy entrepreneur was one marker of the growing dominance of style (which he has in abundance) over substance in American political discourse, even among those who image themselves to be well informed about public affairs.
    • Paul Krugman, Peddling Prosperity (1994), Introduction: Looking for Magicians
  • So Galbraith is oblivious to the most serious problem facing modern liberalism: reconciling social justice with full employment. In the real world this is a terrible dilemma; even Sweden, with its powerful sense of community and overwhelming consensus for the welfare state, has found itself suffering from an acute case of Eurosclerosis. But in Galbraith's world there is no dilemma at all: Unemployment is merely a problem of inadequate demand, to be cured by New Deal-type public works programs and redistribution of income away from rich people who save too much.
    • Paul Krugman, Review of John Kenneth Galbraith's 'The Good Society: The Humane Agenda' (1996)
  • If Walter Bagehot was right that “one of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea,” Ken caused an extraordinary amount of pain. Both in his economic thinking and in his political activities, he was dedicated to resisting, and where possible overturning, what he famously called “conventional wisdom” (one of his many turns of phrase that have since become commonplace locutions). Rejecting the standard economic theory based on small, anonymous households and firms that autonomously engage in perfectly functioning markets, Ken instead saw an economic stage dominated by large, nameable actors: big business, big labor, big government. Sorting out their roles and respective power was central to his analysis, and the continually shifting tensions in the interplay among them—“countervailing power” in another of his deft phrases—was the real story of how an economy behaved.
    • Stephen A. Marglin, Richard Parker, Amartya Sen, and Benjamin M. Friedman, “John Kenneth Galbraith”, Harvard Gazette (7 February 2008)
  • Ken also identified the corporation, not “the market,” as the defining institution of modern economic activity, developing these and related themes both in his teaching and in such widely celebrated books as American Capitalism (1952) and The New Industrial State (1967). But his interest in these ideas persisted throughout his life. The central importance of the corporation, and the fear that government was no longer able to provide an adequate countervailing force against corporate influence exerted both legally and otherwise, was the subject of his last book, The Economics of Innocent Fraud (2004).
    • Stephen A. Marglin, Richard Parker, Amartya Sen, and Benjamin M. Friedman, “John Kenneth Galbraith”, Harvard Gazette (7 February 2008)
  • An economist such as John Galbraith is as much a political scientist as Robert Dahl or David Truman.
  • I knew Galbraith in the old days; he sat for some little time in my seminar. I must say I am not altogether surprised at what has happened; for I have always thought him a dull fellow, well intentioned enough, but a sort of pedant of New Deal economics — just the kind of man to upset the business community without himself bringing any startling administrative ability to offset the loss of that which he had antagonized.
    • Lionel Robbins, in The Wartime Diaries of Lionel Robbins & James Meade 1943–1945, ed. Susan Howson and Donald Moggridge (1990)
  • Political economy is an art as well as a science. John Kenneth Galbraith has always been a creative artist in formulating theories of the social world. His fabrications constitute the stuff of economic science.
    • Paul Samuelson, “Galbraith as artist and scientist” in Bowles, S., Edwards R. and Shepherd, W. G. (eds.) Unconventional Wisdom: Essays in honor of John Kenneth Galbraith (1989)
  • His is an artistic, speculative mind. He sets up hypotheses which go beyond the data, and some of the greatest scholars in history have been of that type, … Part of Galbraith's strength is that he writes well. Some economists believe writing well is a defect that creates too much spurious impact on thought. If it's a crime, it's not one that many of my profession are guilty of.
  • He doesn't get enough praise. The Affluent Society is a great insight, and has become so much a part of our understanding of contemporary capitalism that we forget where it began. It's like reading Hamlet and deciding it's full of quotations.
  • Galbraith has often been compared to Keynes, and they had much in common. But the way they did their economics was very different. Keynes produced theories, Galbraith, theoretically-inspired sociology. Keynes thought that ideas ruled the roost; Galbraith thought it was structures of power. His was a non-Marxist version of class struggle, with the intelligentsia as the engine of social innovation and carrier of the "public purpose".
    • Robert Skidelsky, “JK Galbraith's ideas will continue to inspire”, The Independent (May 01, 2006)
  • What Galbraith understood, and what later researchers (including this author) have proved, is that Adam Smith's "invisible hand" – the notion that the individual pursuit of maximum profit guides capitalist markets to efficiency – is so invisible because, quite often, it's just not there. Unfettered markets often produce too much of some things, such as pollution, and too little of other things, such as basic research. As Bruce Greenwald and I have shown, whenever information is imperfect – that is, always – markets are inefficient; hence the need for government action.
    • Joseph Stiglitz, John Kenneth Galbraith understood capitalism as lived – not as theorized (2006)
  • Galbraith's penetrating insights into the nature of capitalism – as it is lived, not as it is theorized in simplistic models – has enhanced our understanding of the market economy. He has left an intellectual legacy for generations to come.
    • Joseph Stiglitz, John Kenneth Galbraith understood capitalism as lived – not as theorized (2006)

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