Thursday, May 04, 2006

My John Kenneth Galbraith story

A couple years ago, I was in Boston for yet another fiber optics conference and met up with an old favorite teacher of mine from Rutgers who now teaches at Harvard. She took me to the faculty club for lunch and I wore my too-old suit. At one point she pointed over to a table with a number of very well-dressed men and whispered: “That’s John Kenneth Galbraith.” He was very old and very tall (I'm 6'3").

Anyway, it’s not nice to speak ill of the dead but George Will positively piles on in his article “Condescensional Wisdom”:

Although Galbraith coined the phrase ``conventional wisdom,'' and thought of himself as the scourge of groupthink, ``The Affluent Society'' was the distilled essence of the conventional wisdom on campuses. In the 1960s, that liberalism became a stance of disdain, describing Americans not only as Galbraith had, as vulgar, but also as sick, racist, sexist, imperialist, etc. Again, and not amazingly, voters were not amused when told that their desires -- for big cars, neighborhood schools and other things -- did not deserve respect.
Yeesh. Everything I know about economics I learned from P.J. O’Rourke’s excellent “Eat the Rich.” Concerning certain economic books, he writes this in the intro:

There are also certain books you should avoid, such as anything with the words Investment and Success in the title and everything ever written by John Kenneth Galbraith.
So noted.

No comments: