Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sad News

Economist John Kenneth Galbraith dies

John Kenneth Galbraith, an influential liberal economist and author of "The Affluent Society," has died at age 97, The New York Times reported on Sunday.
The Canadian-born Galbraith, a professor at Harvard University, died on Saturday at a hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the paper said.
Galbraith's most famous work, 1958's "The Affluent Society," became a bestseller. In the book, he argued that the United States had become rich in consumer goods but poor in social services.
Galbraith tutored Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic nominee for president in 1952 and 1956, on economics. He also advised President John F. Kennedy and served as his ambassador to India.
Though he eventually broke with President Lyndon Johnson over the war in Vietnam, he helped conceive of Johnson's Great Society program and wrote a major
presidential address that outlined its purposes, the Times said.
At his death Galbraith was an emeritus professor of economics at Harvard, where he had taught for most of his career.

There is also a tremendous NY Times obit - John Kenneth Galbraith, 97, Dies; Economist Held a Mirror to Society.

John Kenneth Galbraith, the iconoclastic economist, teacher and diplomat and an unapologetically liberal member of the political and academic establishment he often needled in prolific writings for more than half a century, died Saturday at a hospital in Cambridge, Mass. He was 97.

Mr. Galbraith was one of the most widely read authors in the history of economics; among his 33 books was "The Affluent Society" (1958), one of those rare works that forces a nation to re-examine its values. He wrote fluidly, even on complex topics, and many of his compelling phrases — among them "the affluent society," "conventional wisdom" and "countervailing power" — became part of the language.

An imposing presence, lanky and angular at 6 feet 8 inches tall, Mr. Galbraith was consulted frequently by national leaders, and he gave advice freely, though it may have been ignored as often as it was taken. Mr. Galbraith clearly preferred taking issue with the conventional wisdom he distrusted.

He strived to change the very texture of the national conversation about power and its nature in the modern world by explaining how the planning of giant corporations superseded market mechanisms. His sweeping ideas, which might have gained even greater traction had he developed disciples willing and able to prove them with mathematical models, came to strike some as almost quaint in today's harsh, interconnected world where corporations devour one another for breakfast.

I realize that I have not posted in a long time. I have been extremely busy - and I have finals the next two weeks - so it's unlikely I'll be back regularly until after that. But when I saw this today, I felt the need to put something up. I have always had deep respect for Prof. Galbraith. He was one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th Century.

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