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John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics

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Overview

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) was one of America’s most famous economists for good reason. From his acerbic analysis of America’s “private wealth and public squalor” to his denunciation of the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, Galbraith consistently challenged “conventional wisdom” (a phrase he coined). He did so as a witty commentator on America’s political follies and as a versatile author of bestselling books—such as The Affluent Society and The New Industrial State—that warn of the dangers of deregulated markets, corporate greed, and inattention to the costs of our military power. Here, in the first full-length biography of Galbraith and his times, Richard Parker provides not only a nuanced portrait of this extraordinary man, but also an important reinterpretation of twentieth-century public policy and economic practices.

“Whatever you may think of his ideas, John Kenneth Galbraith has led an extraordinary life. . . . Doing justice to this life story requires an outsize biography, one that not only tells Mr. Galbraith’s tale but sets it on the broader canvas of America’s political and economic evolution. And Richard Parker’s book does just that.”—Economist

“Parker’s book is more than a chronicle of Galbraith’s life; it’s a history of American politics and policy from FDR through George W. Bush. . . . It will make readers more economically and politically aware.”—USA Today

 “The most readable and instructive biography of the century.”—William F. Buckley, National Review

      

“The story of this man’s life and work is wonderfully rendered in this magnum opus, and offers an antidote to the public ennui, economic cruelty, and government malfeasance that poison life in America today.”—James Carroll, Boston Globe

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review

"I was initially skeptical about the book's 820 pages . . . but every detail is justified and every digression fascinating. . . . Reading Parker's comprehensive account of the 20th century's economic battles, I can't help thinking that this ought to be Galbraith's moment."

— Thomas Frank

Chicago Tribune

"Richard Parker's rich, fascinating, authorized biography of the most famous economist since John Maynard Keynes tells a terrific story—actually dozens of them—and opens a compelling window on the course of 20th Century American liberalism."—Warren Goldstein, Chicago Tribune

— Warren Goldstein

National Review

“The most readable and instructive biography—certainly of the century. . . . . The book is deeply and intimately informative.”

— William F. Buckley

Boston Globe

“Wonderfully rendered. . . . Offers an antidote to the public ennui, economic cruelty, and government malfeasance that poison life in America today.”

USA Today

“Parker’s book is more than a chronicle of Galbraith’s life; it’s a history of American politics and policy from FDR through George W. Bush. . . . It will make readers more economically and politically aware.”
The Historian

"[This] work is no less than the intellectual history of economics from the disintegration of orthodoxy during the Great Depression to the rise and fall of the Keynesian alternative. The book is a well-written, even indispensable, guide to the intellectual controversies that marked the discipline of economics over the past one hundred years."

— Gregory R. Zieren

Research in the History of Economic Thought & Methodology

"[Parker] turns Galbraith's life into a remarkably well-written and deeply researched tale of one of the most influential economists of the century. As should any excellent buiography, it not only traces the life of the subject but also situates that life in the broader context of events. . . . The result is a rich and detailed economic and political history of the Unted States in the 20th century, with Galbraith at the center of it."

— Steven Horwitz

New York Times Book Review - Thomas Frank

"I was initially skeptical about the book's 820 pages . . . but every detail is justified and every digression fascinating. . . . Reading Parker's comprehensive account of the 20th century's economic battles, I can't help thinking that this ought to be Galbraith's moment."
Chicago Tribune - Warren Goldstein

"Richard Parker's rich, fascinating, authorized biography of the most famous economist since John Maynard Keynes tells a terrific story—actually dozens of them—and opens a compelling window on the course of 20th Century American liberalism."—Warren Goldstein, Chicago Tribune
National Review - William F. Buckley

“The most readable and instructive biography—certainly of the century. . . . . The book is deeply and intimately informative.”
The Historian - Gregory R. Zieren

"[This] work is no less than the intellectual history of economics from the disintegration of orthodoxy during the Great Depression to the rise and fall of the Keynesian alternative. The book is a well-written, even indispensable, guide to the intellectual controversies that marked the discipline of economics over the past one hundred years."
Research in the History of Economic Thought & Methodology - Steven Horwitz

"[Parker] turns Galbraith's life into a remarkably well-written and deeply researched tale of one of the most influential economists of the century. As should any excellent buiography, it not only traces the life of the subject but also situates that life in the broader context of events. . . . The result is a rich and detailed economic and political history of the Unted States in the 20th century, with Galbraith at the center of it."
Stephen Clarkson
[An] admirable biography... Those who do not want to engage with Richard Parker's detailed exposition of the finer points separating Galbraith from his fellow economists may find it too long.... Richard Parker has produced a rich, well-written and fittingly large monument to this super-sized intellectual of the 20th century.
The Globe and Mail
Floyd Norris
There was a time when John Kenneth Galbraith was the most famous economist in America, a man whose books regularly became best sellers. But today he is little honored in the economics profession, where, as Richard Parker remarks in his engaging and exhaustive biography, Mr. Galbraith is regarded as something of an outsider, a fine writer who never became comfortable with the detailed mathematical formulas that came to dominate economics.
— The New York Times
Geoffrey Kabaservice
Readers whose patience will be tried by Parker's densely written 820-page tome will nonetheless appreciate the clarity and insight he brings to this portrait of the outsider as insider. For Galbraith's main contribution to politics as well as economics was to be a gadfly in tweed, skeptical of all authority and any system of fixed thought. Anyone too heavily invested in preserving the "conventional wisdom" -- a term he coined in his most famous work, The Affluent Society (1958) -- would feel the sting of his debunking, made more painful by the wit and elegance with which it was delivered. What's surprising in Parker's account is not that Galbraith had so many enemies across the ideological spectrum but that he was tolerated in high places for so long.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Perhaps only an elephant of a book could cover the life and thinking of so influential a figure as John Kenneth Galbraith (b. 1908). But this one goes too far. While Parker, an economist, writes with fluency and expert knowledge, he thinks it essential to write short histories of everything Galbraith was involved in. And that was much, starting with New Deal Washington, then the post-WWII Strategic Bombing Survey, Harvard, JFK's administration and an ambassadorship to India-and, always, liberal Democratic politics. Through it all, Galbraith poured out torrents of never dull writings, of which The Affluent Society best embodies his combination of fresh thought, political acuity and polemical skill. He took on academic and political orthodoxies to transform the way informed people think about the economy, institutions and social justice. Despite its length, Parker's biography is a model of clarity on these matters. The author, who is altogether sympathetic to his subject, never shrinks from offering others' tough, and his own measured, judgments. Galbraith emerges as highly appealing, a man of sparkling wit liked by most of his intellectual opponents and deprecated chiefly by his hard-boiled fellow economists. While they'll long debate his contributions to economics, there's no denying, as this book makes indelibly clear, that Galbraith, has been one of the major American lives of the 20th century. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
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 U.S. 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 U.S. politics is receding by the year.

In this lively and thoughtful biography, Richard Parker sets himself the task of explaining Galbraith's career: why it was so dazzling, and why its long-term impact has turned out to be so much less than expected. The result is not only the story of a smart, witty, and important man, but also a fascinating meditation on the rise and fall of twentieth-century American liberalism.

Library Journal
While the average American may not be aware of the work of John Kenneth Galbraith, his importance to the development of American public policy in general, and economic policy in particular, is indisputable. In this sweeping account, Parker, himself an economist and fellow at the Shorenstein Center at the Kennedy School of Harvard, does more than simply chronicle a life; he deftly explains complex economic theories in lay reader's terms while establishing each theory's relationship to a policy problem. Galbraith's stints as presidential advisor are presented in great depth, and the author's access to previously unavailable material sheds new light on Galbraith's relationships with these chief executives. But as this is an authorized biography, the portrait of Galbraith is flattering and generally uncritical. A large book that includes 100 pages of notes, this will likely intimidate most readers; yet those willing to invest the time to learn more about economics and U.S. public policy in the latter half of the 20th century will find a most satisfying return. Recommended for larger public libraries and academic libraries.-Thomas J. Baldino, Wilkes Univ., Wilkes-Barre, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A fittingly oversized life of the eminent economist, philosopher, writer, and diplomat. John Kenneth Galbraith, now 96, has long been famed for his patrician bearing and PBS-friendly intellectual prowess. Yet, Parker (Kennedy School of Government/Harvard Univ.) writes, Galbraith grew up on an Ontario farm far from any cultural centers and had barely heard of most of the great economic philosophers until arriving at graduate school; thanks to his agricultural background, Galbraith may have been the only New Deal "alphabet agency" appointee capable of keeping up with the sometime farmer John Maynard Keynes on the best way to raise hogs. Yet his domain soon extended well beyond rural policy; as an advisor, informal or formal, to every Democratic president since FDR, Galbraith has been instrumental in shaping much domestic and foreign policy. He also served as JFK's ambassador to India and, Parker suggests, was in line to become ambassador to the Soviet Union when Kennedy was assassinated, after which he had a most celebrated falling out with Lyndon Johnson and emerged as one of the intellectual left's most powerful critics of the war in Vietnam. Though scorned by many more number-oriented economists-MIT's Paul Samuelson once dismissed him as "America's foremost economist for non-economists"-Galbraith has cast a giant shadow on just about every corner of American public life; he has also been catholic in his criticism, decrying the policies of Bill Clinton as well as those of Richard Nixon and now George W. Bush. Parker ably explores the development of Galbraith's thought, illuminating some fascinating questions as he does: Why, for instance, did business people once cry foul at governmentintervention but welcome "a business cycle moderated by 'business Keynesianism'"? How did guns come to coexist with butter, and butter with guns? Whatever happened to the notion of countervailing power, a term that Galbraith so nicely coined-as he did "the affluent society," "the conventional wisdom," and other useful handles?Accessible, well-written approach to both Galbraith's life and the larger issues to which he has so effectively devoted his thought: an exemplary intellectual biography. Agent: Donald Cutler/Bookmark Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226646770
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2006
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 862
  • Sales rank: 1,409,489
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 2.05 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Parker is an Oxford-trained economist and senior fellow of the Shorenstein Center at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. A cofounder of the magazine Mother Jones, he writes extensively on economics and public policy.

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Table of Contents


Introduction: On First Coming to Cambridge
1. Growing Up in Special Places
2. Harvard in the 1930s
3. American Agriculture and the New Deal
4. Getting Ready for Keynes
5. Going to the Temple
6. Moving On—Toward War
7. Now Comes War
8. Luce, Keynes, and "The American Century"
9. Surveying the Consequences of War
10. A New War Beginning
11. Back to Harvard: New Economics and New Voices
12. Stevenson and the Liberals
13. The Affluent Society: Parting Company with the Mainstream
14. Kennedy, Sputnik, and "Liberal Growthmanship"
15. On the New Frontier
16. India
17. Tragedy, Triumph, Tragedy
18. The New Industrial State
19. Collisions
20. Galbraith and Nixon: Two Keynesian Presidents
21. The Price of Hypocrisy
22. The Great Unraveling
23. The Economics of Joy
24. Joy Fades
25. Century's End
Conclusion: The Galbraith Legacy
Notes
Acknowledgments
Index
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First Chapter

JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH

His Life, His Politics, His Economics
By Richard Parker

FARRAR, STRAUS AND GIROUX

Copyright © 2005 Richard Parker
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-374-28168-8


Chapter One

Growing Up in Special Places

IN THE FALL of 1934, a twenty-five-year-old Canadian economist freshly arrived at Harvard stood at a crossroads. How had he gotten there? What forces had propelled him, and what had brought his world to such a juncture? We need to turn back a quarter century to 1908, which for many today feels like a simpler time, to answer those questions.

On October 15 of that year, John Kenneth Galbraith was born into one of the world's quieter and more remote corners, the hamlet of Iona Station, Ontario, Canada. He was delivered, at home, as most children were in those days, in the back upstairs bedroom of his family's two-story, white clapboard farmhouse. Several days later, the local weekly, The Dutton Advance, duly noted the baby's healthy arrival, the third child born to William Archibald Galbraith and his wife, Sarah Catherine Kendall Galbraith.

Archie and Kate, as his parents were known, owned not one but two modest farms totaling a comfortable 150 acres. Archie had inherited much of the original farm from his father in the mid-1890s, and then built a home on it for his new bride, adding a second nearby property shortly after. Painted white with green trimand wrapped by a wide veranda, the Galbraiths' four-bedroom house stood along a two-lane gravel road, surrounded by oak, maple, apple, and pear trees; a large garden in back supplied much of the family's produce, and several green frame outbuildings included a large barn and a garage for their Model T Ford.

Like neighboring farms along Hogg Street, as the road was known, the Galbraith property gave off an air of a modestly comfortable and secure prosperity. Although farm equipment and livestock shared the various structures scattered across the large yard, the neighborhood itself felt quietly genteel by rural standards. (According to local legend, boosters had added the second g to "Hogg" Street to betoken the gentility.)

It is easy now to imagine such a setting untouched by the momentous forces even then forging our "modern world"-and in many respects Iona Station was just that. Galbraith has recalled the quality with slightly mixed affection:

I remember it ... as having a breathtaking loveliness ... On a dozen winter mornings the snow was deep over the fields and fences and sat in great patches on the evergreens in the yard. The purity of color was matched by equal purity of line. Even the steep roofs of the houses disappeared under a white mantle, with somewhat of the architecture of an English thatch curving gently out from the eave ... [and] a full moon turned everything into a shimmering fairyland. On such nights we went skating at Gow's gravel pit and came home in subdued wonder at what we saw.

[T]here were other moments-one of them when the apple trees blossomed and the grass was rich and green against the newly seeded land ... [T]he spring brought thick patches of violets and forget-me-nots and a little later of wild phlox ... Every three' or four years circumstances favored blackberries and one picked them for hours under a bright green and red canopy of sumac, encountering at intervals one's neighbors similarly engaged.

Yet Galbraith is quick to poke holes in his own recollections, lest a modern urban reader view them solely as pastoral reverie:

Other children of which one read had streams to patrol and mountains to climb and some natural curiosities such as caves or springs. We had none of these. A spring was only a muddy hole where the cattle watered. One brook ran in a dull way from the end of a tile drain just beyond our farm to the lake five or six miles to the south. It had water in it for only a few weeks in the spring and after especially heavy rains ... The only available hill could be climbed in a matter of four or five minutes.

But however pastoral and remote, this rural countryside was far from untouched by the outside world. Iona Station is located about as far south as a Canadian town can be, set low in the province of Ontario just a few miles above Lake Erie's northern shore. Cleveland lies only sixty miles south, across the lake; Detroit is a hundred miles west and Buffalo only a bit farther east. Regularly each morning, the big-city newspapers would arrive from Toronto, Ottawa, and Windsor, pitched along with the mailbag onto the local station platform from a passing express train.

Each evening, the local farmers would pause after dinner and final chores to read from those papers, typically from the Toronto Globe, known locally as "the Bible" for its stalwart Liberal Party support and progressive views, and the faith these Scots-Canadians placed in it. Some read by kerosene light, others (including the Galbraiths) by their recently installed electric lamps. Most checked the grain and livestock prices in Chicago or Toronto first, then the car-loadings of wheat in Minneapolis or Winnipeg or the tons of flour processed by mills in nearby Buffalo. After that, some readers-though not all-turned back to the front pages, to learn about broader matters, including affairs in Ottawa and Washington and the events and larger forces that shaped them.

The world those papers described in 1908 often appeared to their readers as convulsive as it would seem in 1934. It was one of those historical moments when on a dozen fronts simultaneously, an entire age seemed to be giving way to the next. That year in Detroit, the first Model T went on sale, and the first oil well was drilled in the Middle East. The Grand Canyon became a national park, and the FBI was formed; both J. C. Penney and the first exhibit of Cubist paintings opened to the public. Mother's Day was inaugurated and the first international meeting of psychiatrists convened; the Geiger counter was invented, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Geiger counter's significance wasn't fully understood until 1945, but the effects of Vienna's actions came quickly.

By 1914, the bloodiest and most extensive war the world had ever seen would unfold from an assassin's bullet in the Balkans. Within a decade, the United States would start to displace Britain as the world's dominant political and financial power. In both Europe and Asia, empires that had survived centuries of turmoil came crashing down, and the specter of Marxist revolution triumphed in Russia after a long struggle over the rights and powers of industrial workers.

Since prehistoric times agriculture had employed most men and women, but it was now in a downward employment spiral on both sides of the Atlantic, as farmers everywhere well knew. In 1908, farming and farm-related work still occupied a majority of Canadians and Americans, but just barely. (By 1911, Canada's rural population outnumbered city dwellers by about 1 million out of a 7 million total, though in Ontario, a slight majority was by then urban.) The direction of change toward cities, factories, shops, and services was irreversible.

Technology's vast modern sweep-electricity, the automobile, the telephone, the airplane, even common household appliances now taken for granted-was the source of endless wonder, discussion, and excitement. Since the mid-nineteenth century, the custom of organizing "world's fairs" had become popular in Europe, and it transferred easily to North America, especially after the success of the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, in 1876. These celebrations of technology's wonders, with their glass palaces and iron towers, immense networks of electrical lighting, mechanical amusements, and the latest machinery, transfixed those who came to see them, or who heard of them from neighbors or relatives lucky enough to attend, as was the case in Iona Station. In the public imagination, these great pageants captured the benign promise that science and technology held out for humankind.

Politically and economically, the world of 1908 was also in change, and here the change felt less benign, for industrialism's advances had created new poverty and suffering. South of Iona Station, in the United States, politics by 1908 was in the midst of the Progressive Era, when an alarmed middle class sought to stem the sufferings the new capitalist order imposed on its workers, and simultaneously to secure a new, "scientific" kind of state and social order that placed public rationality, nonviolent but far-reaching reform, and extensive new democratic structures at the heart of public life. Theodore Roosevelt, the Rough Rider whose sharp attacks on "malefactors of great wealth" and "trust-busting" assaults on corporate power made him a new kind of Republican, was President. Muckraking journalists like Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, and Ray Stannard Baker were at the apogee of their influence, detailing how the power of Rockefeller, Morgan, Carnegie, and other titans threatened America's ideals of freedom and equality of opportunity. Unions, suffragettes, prohibitionists, a dozen strains of socialists and radical social reformers, all preached redemption through even further-reaching changes.

Canada was scarcely immune to the same forces and debates-indeed, the country's official centenary history refers to the period as the time of Canada's "Great Transformation." During the tenure of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and his Liberal Party, between his first election in 1896 and his narrow defeat fifteen years later, Canada's small population grew by nearly 50 percent, heavily augmented by immigrant growth, much of it from non-English-speaking countries. Industrialization redefined the balance between the city and countryside and, because many new factories were U.S.-owned, between Canada and its powerful southern neighbor. The western provinces acquired new power vis-à-vis Ontario and Quebec. New sources of mineral wealth and energy were opened in the north, and wheat became Canada's signature export.

As in the United States, much of this dramatic change was welcomed and embraced. As one history puts it,

For the majority, optimism was the ruling passion, even after signs of collapse had begun to appear in the Edwardian world. Material expansion became, for most, the measure of national and moral progress. The potential for Canada seemed unlimited. The vast, empty spaces of the land would welcome millions of settlers that would challenge the United States and surpass Great Britain. That population would exploit the untold resources of the country, providing a standard of living envied by the rest of the world. The twentieth century would belong to Canada.

But the optimism was shadowed with doubts, resistance, and conflict. Canada's cities, like those in the United States, were all too typically, as one historian described them, "a place of violent contrasts, a home for the very rich and the very poor, for the rural immigrant from a neighbouring county or a far distant land, and the native urbanite, for respectable church-goers and for prostitutes, a place of conspicuous consumption and forced destitution." One government study of Toronto's housing conditions, published shortly before Galbraith's birth, found, for example, that "there is scarcely a vacant house fit to live in that is not inhabited, and in many cases by numerous families; in fact ... respectable people have had to live in stables, tents, old cars, sheds (others in damp cellars), where we would not place a valued animal, let alone a human being." And on Canada's farms, conditions were often equally harsh, since farmers faced falling prices for farm goods as acreage and productivity grew, rising prices for manufactured and consumer goods, high freight rates, processor monopolies, protective tariffs, and rural depopulation. They were becoming restive and, frequently, radical.

During Laurier's administration, the restiveness of Canada's farmers spurred new forms of rural organization. More important politically, often radical new "farmers' unions" also appeared, especially in the west, where wheat harvests multiplied a stunning tenfold in the Laurier years. These new "unions," redolent with the same Populist sympathies that had sparked William Jennings Bryan's 1896 campaign in the United States, swiftly displaced their politically quieter predecessors, like the Grange.

In Ontario, this new impulse for agrarian organizing led to formation of the United Farmers of Ontario a year before Galbraith's birth. Mostly contained in their agitation during the Laurier years by the shrewd prime minister's delicately balanced policies, by 1921 the UFO, with Galbraith's father Archie active in it, would not just overthrow the provincial government but permanently reshape the nation's traditional two-party system. In a stunning political stroke, which in many ways succeeded where Bryan's 1896 Populist campaign in the United States had failed, it ushered in a new era in Canadian politics.

But in 1908, although farmers across Canada were restive, in Elgin County, Ontario, support still inclined strongly and steadily, as it had for many years, to Laurier and the Liberals. This was not because places like Iona Station escaped the economic pressures bearing down on all farmers then, but because local farmers had several particular advantages. First, they practiced a mixed agriculture of crops and livestock, never depending solely on a single crop such as wheat for their incomes, as did so many in western Canada. Second, time and again, they proved themselves adept at shifting the mix when market conditions changed. Third, they had the railroad.

Besides being blessed with a temperate climate (the weather's extremes moderated by nearby Lake Erie), Iona Station was bisected by the major rail line connecting Buffalo to Detroit. Indeed, Iona Station owed its existence to the line and the entrepreneurs who'd built it in the 1870s. Originally intended to transport settlers and goods west to Michigan farmlands, within a few years it was bringing their products (and eventually, the industrial outpourings of Detroit and other Michigan cities) to eastern markets. When the railmen encountered important farm roads crossing their right-of-way, they would build a small terminal of sorts to service the surrounding economy; hence "Iona Station," the name chosen in recognition of the local Scottish majority who had long ago named the adjoining hamlet Iona.

The rail line-originally owned by the Canadian Southern, in Galbraith's youth by the Michigan Central, and later the New York Central-had two important effects locally: it guaranteed that city goods, as well as city newspapers carrying the latest ideas and fashions, flowed easily into towns like Iona Station and the surrounding Dunwich Township; more directly important to economic security, the higher wages paid by big-city assembly plants, steel works, and construction projects became powerful magnets that drew local farm youth to the cities.

Continues...


Excerpted from JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH by Richard Parker Copyright © 2005 by Richard Parker. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Posted June 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Superb biography of the great economist

    Richard Parker, a senior fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, has written a superb biography of the great American economist John Kenneth Galbraith. Parker sets Galbraith's career in its historical and intellectual contexts and relates the fascinating range of debates he was involved in.

    In the 1930s, the orthodox response to crisis was, then as now, to cut wages and jobs. By contrast, the New Deal, which Galbraith worked for, aimed to restore consumer demand, not business confidence, so that higher incomes would increase investment. (Similarly now, China, seeing the growing protectionism around the world, has shifted focus from exports to increasing domestic demand.) Galbraith thought that borrowing to fund public spending was fine, so long as the work brought real gains.

    But the New Deal was never enough to end the depression. Federal spending, 7% of GDP in 1932, was only 10% by 1940. US unemployment was never less than 14% before 1939's rearmament. Only world war ended capitalism's depression.

    In the 1960s, President Kennedy increased spending, but 75% of the rise was due to military spending and the space programme. Military spending rose from $46 billion to $54 billion, twice all federal social spending. Galbraith repeatedly warned Kennedy that military spending and intervention carried terrible costs, and in particular he warned Kennedy against attacking Vietnam.

    Throughout his career, Galbraith supported a fair trade policy. He also backed direct and indirect regulation of polluters and of land and resource use, and called for an environmental excise tax to cut energy consumption.

    Parker reminds us that under Reagan, growth was slower than in the 1950s, '60s, or '70s, as was the growth in the number of jobs, and so was investment in plant and equipment. Under Reagan, growth was lower than in France, Germany, Sweden, Canada or Japan. Finally Parker tells the story of Galbraith's lifelong rivalry with Milton Friedman, adviser to Thatcher and Pinochet, who finally had to admit that monetarism in practice 'has not been a success'.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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