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John Kenneth Galbraith, Dead at 97:
The New York Times obit is here.
Cornellian (mail):
I guess now no one can accuse him of lacking empirical support for his assertion that "in the long run we're all dead."
4.30.2006 11:14am
stranger from a strange land far away (mail):
"in the long run we're all dead."

Mmm, wasn't it actually John Maynard Keynes who said this?
4.30.2006 11:17am
blackdoggerel (mail):
Galbraith is an enigma to me. How does somebody whose ideas have been discredited and whose theories turned out to be quite the opposite of reality remain famous and continue to garner plaudits? He was the Lamarck of the economics field.
4.30.2006 11:24am
tefta (mail):
Proving once again that only the good die young.
4.30.2006 11:33am
Cornellian (mail):
"in the long run we're all dead."

Mmm, wasn't it actually John Maynard Keynes who said this?


Possibly. I tend to confuse the two.
4.30.2006 11:38am
Roger Sweeny (mail):
Yes, it was Keynes.

Why will Galbraith be remembered? Partly because he was right about a number of things. He saw back in the '60s that the Soviets hadn't won hearts and minds in eastern Europe. Quite the opposite. Most of the people there hated them, so when Gorbachev loosened the strings in the late '80s, they basically told the Russians to f k themselves. He told how economists--and intellectuals in general--often preferred a good theory to correspondence with the facts. Andl he did it with wit and style.

Yet I fear the main reason he will be remembered is he told comforting lies in a way that made them seem daring and full of truth. That making things better requires more money and power to governments, that the educated left wing should rule. He was a prophet of the technocratic old style-religion, a brilliant child of the '30s, who made it all sound new. If he had not existed, he would have had to be invented.
4.30.2006 11:49am
FXKLM:
I was familiar with his work, but I don't think I'd ever seen him before. I had no idea he was 6'8". That's huge!
4.30.2006 12:35pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
His passing is far less a loss to the field of economics than, say, the more obscure John Rawls and Robert Nozick, who both passed in 2002.
4.30.2006 12:41pm
byomtov (mail):
What a bunch of nasty, unpleasant comments by smug jerks. (I exclude "stranger" who is of course correct about Keynes. Why Cornellian seems proud of confusing the two is unclear).
4.30.2006 12:42pm
Wintermute (mail) (www):
Professor of mine. He withstood the slings and arrows of outrageous comments quite well when alive, but he is beyond them now. RIP, JKG.
4.30.2006 1:08pm
Henry P, Wickham, Jr. (mail):
John Kenneth Galbraith is to American economics what Rod McKuen is to American poetry.
4.30.2006 1:10pm
Cornellian (mail):
I thought Galbraith was Canadian?
4.30.2006 1:17pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
He was born in Canada, but became a US citizen in the late '30s.
4.30.2006 1:29pm
Tareeq (www):
Some, therefore, said Mr. Galbraith might best be called an "economic sociologist." This view was reinforced by Mr. Galbraith's nontechnical phrasing, called glibness by the envious and antagonistic.

Or perhaps called "unscientific" by the sober and self-disciplined.
4.30.2006 1:50pm
carl s (mail):
A touching group of comments. Although I don't think I agreed with anything I've read by him, he was a giant in the field and seemed like a very friendly and generous man. RIP.
4.30.2006 1:53pm
GMUSL 2L (mail):
Oh, "Bernie Holiday"... he never misses a chance to smear people who aren't in favor of knee-jerk technocratic statism.

Bernie, you really are my favorite troll!
4.30.2006 2:02pm
AppSocRes (mail):
"De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est" I disagreed strenuously with just about every major pronouncement Professor Galbraith ever made. Nonetheless he was a gifted defender of what he thoght was right. It's mean-spirited to attack a man who can no longer defend himself.

I lived in Cambridge during the summers of 1967 and 1968 while I did work-study lab work at my university. Occassionally during my evening walks (looking to pick up girls in Harvard Square), I'd pass a very tall and imposing man in a kilt. We developed a nodding (literally) acquaintance. It wasn't until years later that I realized the man was Professor Galbraith.
4.30.2006 2:14pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
I wonder if it's possible for a scientist to attempt to reach out beyond his particular community, in an attempt to make his science more accessible, without being immediately accused of plebian-baiting hackery. RIP.
4.30.2006 2:20pm
Nathan Hall (mail):
Mike,

Of course it's possible; Carl Segan did it with great success. But that of course doesn't mean it always works.
4.30.2006 2:34pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Nathan, shall we assume that the formula for cross-over success is tout the existence of UFO's? :)
4.30.2006 2:36pm
Roger Sweeny (mail):
What a bunch of nasty, unpleasant comments by smug jerks.

I resemble that remark.

If it weren't for John Kenneth Galbraith, I wouldn't have gone into economics. I loved his unwillingness to suffer fools gladly and his dismissive (smug?) criticism of people others thought were giants. But after a while I decided that he was wrong about a lot, and I suppose I now disagree with the passion of an apostate.

One of the terrible tragedies of the last 60 years has been the fact that so many of the world's poorest have stayed poor. Things we take for granted in the rich world, like efficient and honest government, simply do not exist. Yet Galbraith counselled India (where he was ambassador for several years) and anyone else who would listen that, in general, markets were bad and governments were good. The results have been disastrous. Galbraith is hardly the only culprit--he was pretty much part of the "conventional wisdom" for much of that time--but he was vocal and influential.

Galbraith was fond of Keynes' remark on the power of economic ideas. Maybe it's unfair but I hold him responsible for a lot of bad things happening to the least well off in the world.
4.30.2006 2:39pm
Tareeq (www):
I wonder if it's possible for a scientist to attempt to reach out beyond his particular community, in an attempt to make his science more accessible, without being immediately accused of plebian-baiting hackery.

Clearly one can. One need only look at Steven Levitt, the current public darling among economists, to see that's true. In Galbraith's case, as the Times obit made clear, it's not, for the simple reason that he didn't bother to support his ideas with scientific rigor (difficult enough in the dark science).

Who can blame him? He had the ear of politicians willing to put those untested ideas into practice.

RIP.

Indeed. He was by all accounts a noble spirit, even if he was dead wrong.
4.30.2006 2:46pm
Gil (mail) (www):
While I agree it's bad form to issue personal attacks on the dead, I think criticism of their ideas and actions should be more acceptable than it is now.

Often, when someone dies their lives are painted as completely positive, or at worst harmlessly well-intentioned. This suppression of criticism impedes progress.

I think Galbraith, while possibly a nice guy, was a bad economist whose policy prescriptions did, and continue to do, a great deal of harm to many people.

Let's remember that; as well as what a nice guy he was.

What we say is not for him (he's not resting, he's dead). It's for other people.
4.30.2006 2:49pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
"
Indeed. He was by all accounts a noble spirit, even if he was dead wrong.
"
Ditto.
4.30.2006 2:51pm
byomtov (mail):
Roger Sweeney,

Galbraith may have been wrong about some things, but before condemning him too severely you might want to take a look at what others have said about him. Try DeLong for example.

Even if you disagree, though, that hardly justifies comments like tefta's above. There is an awful lot of just plain rudeness on display here, some of it by people who, I suspect, know little of Galbraith.
4.30.2006 3:01pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I remember him from the 60s as the advocate of counter-cyclical financing -- run deficits to perk up the economy when it's low...

In the 60s, the idea was enthusiastically endorsed by the Demos and derided by the Republicans. More recently, it's been endorsed by the Republicans and derided by the Demos. Perhaps because in the 60s it was used to expand government (we can spend more than we have) and recently as a tool to restrict government (cut taxes and see if we can starve it).
4.30.2006 3:13pm
Zach (mail):
DeLong knows much more than me about economics, but I thought he glossed over Galbraith's difficulties and disagreements with the mathematical modelers in places where it would have benefited him to dig in.

In most scientific fields, people don't introduce math because they want to, they introduce it because it's getting to hard to separate the convincing-sounding nonsense from the stuff that actually makes sense if you work out every single step rigorously. To say that Galbraith fell out of favor when people moved towards models but then to treat it as only a matter of differing preferences and styles seems to miss most of the substantive reasons why a modern economist might like Galbraith less than, say, Adlai Stevenson.

How this relates to DeLong's "story of a smart, witty, and important man, but also a fascinating meditation on the rise and fall of twentieth-century American liberalism." I will leave to the comment thread as a whole.
4.30.2006 4:11pm
The NJ Annuitant (mail):
JKG expressed the ideas of a particular school of economics tinking with style and wit. It turns out that the school of thinking he endorsed happened to be quite wrong.
4.30.2006 4:32pm
Roger Sweeny (mail):
byomtov,

Roger Sweeney,

Galbraith may have been wrong about some things, but before condemning him too severely you might want to take a look at what others have said about him. Try DeLong for example.

In the past 40 years, I have probably read more than ten thousand pages by and about JKG. Ken never hesitated to say when he thought the emperor was naked. In fact, he usually added a crack about what he did see. I criticize in that spirit.
4.30.2006 5:33pm
GMUSL 2L (mail):
Bernie Holiday,

Even if you disagree, though, that hardly justifies comments like tefta's above

Here's what Tefta said, "Proving once again that only the good die young."

Just because Tefta doesn't remember logic 101 doesn't mean that you need to compound the error by buying into the same error. Here's a short review -- "Only A does B" does not mean that "Not B, so not A". So, even if "only the good die young" that does not mean, contrary what you and Tefta both assert, that if one fails to die young than one is not good. In the saying "only the good die young", the "only" means that goodness is NECESSARY BUT NOT SUFFICIENT for a young death.

Despite tefta's hints to the contrary, your inference that Tefta's statement translates as "Galbraith is evil" is fallacious.

But better luck next time!
4.30.2006 6:24pm
byomtov (mail):
GMUSL 2L,

I let your last comment go, but since you seem to be intent on proving yourself an asshole I will confirm that you have succeeded.

Since you find my name so amusing perhaps you'd care to share yours, so we can make fun of it. Or is your braggadocio too limited for that?

I need no lectures on logic, or anything else, from you.
4.30.2006 6:38pm
GMUSL 2L (mail):
Bernie, I'm not making fun of it, merely translating!

I wouldn't lecture you on logic if you wouldn't make such blatantly obvious logical errors.
4.30.2006 7:02pm
byomtov (mail):
Roger Sweeny,

I accept that you are familiar with Galbraith and have arrived at your conclusions on the basis of that familiarity. I apologize for suggesting otherwise. Nonetheless, it is a long way from arguing that he was wrong about some things to saying he "told lies." That is a serious charge.

Regardless, I feel strongly that some of the commentary here on Galbraith's death is inappropriate. Even if one disagrees with the man's ideas the "good riddance" tone is disgusting.
4.30.2006 7:07pm
byomtov (mail):
I wouldn't lecture you on logic if you wouldn't make such blatantly obvious logical errors.

I believe it was tefta who made the error (singular). I merely interpreted his intended meaning, correctly I think, in the same way you did.
4.30.2006 7:12pm
justanotherguy (mail):
Come on and get over it!

The guy was one of many in the era of the progressives who thought that he was one of the enlightened elite bringing wisdom to the world.

Now 60+ years later we have figured out he and others like him simply put an academic gloss over philosophical foolishness. Whether modeling or reality on the ground, the "gospel" G preached to several generations and way too many presidents has been left in the dust. Too bad it is very few places in academia that understand how bad it was.

If only India hadn't listened to him, maybe they wouldn't have had to waiting until the mid 1990s to join the global ecomony. Too bad every Democratic president did.

The interesting point is the fawning and glowing summaries in the drvie by media that neglects to mention how he was so very very wrong about his advice!
4.30.2006 7:13pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Roger Sweeny:

One of the terrible tragedies of the last 60 years has been the fact that so many of the world's poorest have stayed poor. Things we take for granted in the rich world, like efficient and honest government, simply do not exist. Yet Galbraith counselled India (where he was ambassador for several years) and anyone else who would listen that, in general, markets were bad and governments were good.

(emphasis mine)

Roger, in the context you use the term, it seems to say "efficient and honest government" exists in the first world, but not in the third. I would posit that, while our government is certainly better than the norm in poorer nations, dishonesty and inefficiency are the very nature of government.

Indeed Transparency International rates us well below number one Iceland.
4.30.2006 7:51pm
SLS 1L:
It's been a long time since I read Galbraith, but iirc he was 100% right about advertising. Anyone who thinks advertising is about anything other than misleading and manipulation has never watched TV.
4.30.2006 7:57pm
Tareeq (www):
Anyone who thinks advertising is about anything other than misleading and manipulation has never watched TV.

You've obviously never seen Volkswagen's "Unpimp My Ride" commercials.
4.30.2006 8:19pm
logic 101:
GMUSL 2l: "I wouldn't lecture you on logic if you wouldn't make such blatantly obvious logical errors."

Logical genius - someone can commit a fallacy and still intend their statement as an insult.

Let's say I present the following syllogism:

1. All pieces of sh*t stink.
2. GMUSL 2l stinks.
3. Therefore, GMUSL 2l is a piece of sh*t.

I've made a logical error, yet I've still called you a piece of sh*t. Amazing!
4.30.2006 8:37pm
Ross Levatter (mail):
Roger Sweeny: "Things we take for granted in the rich world, like efficient and honest government, simply do not exist."

ROTFLMAO!!
4.30.2006 8:43pm
Dustin R. Ridgeway (mail):
It's misleading to refer to him as an economist, as little of his output has much to do with economics as it is practiced today. Not that he was "proven wrong" but that economics is much more empirical &analytical and less literary than it was in his time. He was a giant as a public intellectual though.
4.30.2006 9:12pm
Hugh Rice (mail):
Wow. Spiteful bunch here at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Should we have a round on how much better of the Supreme Court is now that Rehnquist is dead?
4.30.2006 9:56pm
Tareeq (www):
Wow. Spiteful bunch here at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Should we have a round on how much better of the Supreme Court is now that Rehnquist is dead?


You're projecting.

No one's said it's a good thing he's dead (or least no one who matters), and so far as I can tell no one here would have wished him ill. On the other hand, the man's beliefs as put into practice have a very questionable record, a record that's certainly going to be questioned in the peanut gallery of a site that draws readers of a libertarian/rightish slant. He wasn't a significant person because he was good. He was significant because of his influence on political policy. It's fair to comment on that influence at his passing.

From the lionizing Times obituary one would think he was up for beatification.
4.30.2006 11:26pm
Gil (mail) (www):
Well said, Tareeq.

I'm not happy that he died. I wish he'd had as many healthy and happy days as he wanted.

I criticized his work today, rather than yesterday, because he died today and it seems appropriate for survivors to survey the significance and lessons of the life of the deceased at that time.

From what I gather, Galbraith was a well-intentioned, bright man who was very gifted verbally. Unfortunately, he had tragically wrong theories that he used his talents to promote effectively.

I don't think we're better off because he died. But, I do think that we might have been better off if he hadn't been so wrong, and so effective at getting his mistakes imposed on others.
5.1.2006 12:57am
Roger Sweeny (mail):
Things we take for granted in the rich world, like efficient and honest government

We have honest and efficient government the same way Boston has a pleasant climate. Not every day in every way but good enough for people to live pretty decently. Alas, the governments of most poor countries are closer to Death Valley.
5.1.2006 1:05am
Roger Sweeny (mail):
Byomtov,

When I said Galbraith "told comforting lies in a way that made them seem daring and full of truth," I didn't mean to imply that Galbraith thought he was lying. He thought he was spreading the truth. But like so many, he was more interested in looking for things that harmonized with his world view rather than testing it. Galbraith was scathing in his criticisms of economists for just that--and he was often right about that. But it applies to him too.

That brings up a fascinating question. Galbraith considered himself a polemecist. He didn't just attack ideas. He felt no compunction about attacking other's motives and usefulness. He famously said that the major purpose of economics was to provide employment for economists, implying that most of them made a living through fraud.

Galbraith himself had no problem criticizing the dead. If we don't treat him as he treated others, aren't we saying that he was an unnecessarily mean man? Perhaps we honor him best by blasting him as he would have blasted others.
5.1.2006 1:25am
Perseus:
I had no idea he was 6'8". That's huge!

I'm sure it was quite a sight watching Galbraith on stage debating his nemesis, Milton Friedman, who stands all of 5 feet tall.
5.1.2006 3:09am
TO:
After this and the O'Connor post, it's probably a good idea for the future to refrain from opening comments on a post that mentions that someone has recently either died or retired. Most of this is pretty tasteless, and I doubt that the people who have judged Galbraith's merits as an economist are in any position to do so. I've heard no analysis of his theories, no specificity about any shortcomings of his, just adjectives, adverbs and invective.

Many of us have our favorite public figures and our least favorite. I think that Ted Kennedy should be devoured by army ants, but when he dies or retires, and people discuss his legacy, I'll let his fans enjoy themselves and focus on his better qualities. I think it would be tasteless and unproductive to do otherwise.

Despite his occasional overboard nastiness, Brian Leiter occasionally raises a good point about the nastiness of VC commenters. Post the name of a liberal on this blog and open comments, and that person will be torn down immediately. Even someone like Galbraith. He was an intelligent and influential economist who had a few ideas about what was right and fought for them. It's fine to say that you disagree with his ideas about what was right, but it's not as if he espoused torturing puppies or something.

There's something to be said for reasoned debate even when it involves speaking ill of the dead, but gratuitous nastiness like this is something different altogether.
5.1.2006 8:10am
tmg:
Road to hell is paved with good intentions
I am from India and we still suffer from the well-intentioned policies of socialistic era. To whatever extent JKG might have contributed to it, he deserves to be criticized for that.
5.1.2006 8:31am
justanotherguy (mail):
Oh we are soo mean here... it has nothing to do with liberals or such...but we comment on the ideas... Here G had what have been shown to be very very bad ones. Onesa he inflicted on us.

The responsibility of being very good at something and very influential is that one has to take responsibility for the consequences of those ideas. G was very good and getting people to take his advice and very bad at accepting responsibility when those utopian ideals fell crashing to earth...like most liberals...

maybe we are mean here...

nothing is worse than when a group of mean facts gang up and kill a great and beautiful theory... to bad we can't live in the world of theory.

until then it is better to be realistic and mean than nice and indealistic and wrong. (maybe poor and starving?)
5.1.2006 9:00am
Smithy (mail) (www):
Galbraith was a left-wing hack. His crazed attacks on supply side economics helped to hold the nation back from what could have been a period of great economic growth, like the one we have today. By mocking Reaganomics, and championing Keynesian Clintonomics, he hurt the country immeasurably. May he Rot In Peace.
5.1.2006 9:29am
TO:
If you're going to be mean, you should explain your basis for it.
5.1.2006 10:07am
Swimmy:
Here is a short analysis of his theories:

He predicted that large corporations would be immune to market forces. Since then many have failed, many small businesses have become large corporations, and many small businesses have prospered. He was wrong.

He claimed that corporations are able to shape consumer demand, to sell what they want. He called for regulation. Since then, we've seen numerous businesses, large and small, fail for not providing what consumers want. We've seen numerous regulated businesses reap economic profits because of the competition-limiting factors of government. He was wrong.

As for his view of advertising, that's much more philosophical and complex. I can perfectly understand why someone would prefer his view, but I lean toward Hayek. And I can understand why someone would prefer any of his other more philosophical or moral theories. But he was a lousy economist.

Rest In Peace.
5.1.2006 10:20am
Public_Defender (mail):
There's a period shortly after a person's death when decent people hold back their criticisms, especially personal criticisms (like accusations of dishonesty).

Some thoughtful criticism is fair when it comes to recently deceased public figures. But it requires both dignity and tact, both of which are in short supply in this comment thread.
5.1.2006 10:22am
Chukuang:
His crazed attacks on supply side economics helped to hold the nation back from what could have been a period of great economic growth, like the one we have today. By mocking Reaganomics, and championing Keynesian Clintonomics, he hurt the country immeasurably. May he Rot In Peace.

Just for the record, Smithey, G.W. Bush and the republican dominated House and Senate have increased gov't spending at a far faster rate than Clinton (and that's NOT including the cost of Iraq, etc.). The notion that Bush is in favor of shrinking the size of the federal gov't is frankly absurd. He makes Clinton look like a miser in comparison

This is not to say that Galbraith was right, but to imply that the current republicans aren't, overall, massively increasing the size of the gov't is just factually incorrect.
5.1.2006 10:59am
justanotherguy (mail):
If this post was going to show up on the front page of NYT or WAPO, then we could be differential and basically untruthful.

However since this is only a libertarian blog... why not be brutally honest. G's theories were more philosophy than science/economics. He dressed them in the guise of economics and didn't see the forces that went against his pet ideals...

After many presidents listened to him, a few third world countries, it became patently obvious his ideas were just that, utopian ideals...

We know better now, at least outside acadamia (where reality has yet to sink in) that his views were dross... the world is better of now that his ideas aren't getting in the way...

May he RIP, may his ideas disappear from the rational man's education except as an example what not to think.
5.1.2006 11:14am
Freder Frederson (mail):
His crazed attacks on supply side economics helped to hold the nation back from what could have been a period of great economic growth, like the one we have today.

You know, "crazed attacks" aside, you people still have not shown that supply side economics (or voodoo as the current president's father once famously called it) even works. In fact, quite the contrary has been proven. Reagan's dalliance with supply side left us with massive deficits that required ten years of tax increases (starting in his second term btw) to dig ourselves out of. And eventhough the supply siders predicted gloom and doom to result from Clinton's tax increases, the exact opposite happened (of course you will trot out the excuse that the boom of the mid-'90s was the delayed of the Reagan years or was merely a speculative boom). And now (revenues have increased, blah, blah, blah) we have deficits as far as the eye can see. There is no way, under the current tax and spending policies, that the government is going to be in the black again. This of course is unsustainable.

As for your other pet theories about capitalism--that it inevitably leads to greater freedom. How's that panning out in China, Vietnam? Even Russia appears to be slipping back into some kind of Authoritarian/Mafia state.
5.1.2006 12:04pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
I think attacks on JKG from supply-side advocates are their own refutation.

As for Swimmy's glib attempt at a takedown, it fails the laugh test. Just because large corporations will be able in principle to do A, B, or C, does not mean that incompetently-run corporations' inability to do those things is a refutation of the principle.

Otherwise, I suppose Enron would be a refutation of JKG.

And that's obvious even without my having read a word of the guy.
5.1.2006 12:42pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Frederson:

As for your other pet theories about capitalism--that it inevitably leads to greater freedom. How's that panning out in China, Vietnam? Even Russia appears to be slipping back into some kind of Authoritarian/Mafia state.

Surely, no clear thinking economist who takes a close look at the workings of present day China or Vietnam can regard their system as true "free market capitalism."

Perhaps the best test bench for statist vs. free market economics is Africa. To quote Walter Williams:

What African countries need, the West cannot give. In a word, what Africans need is personal liberty. That means a political system where there are guarantees of private property rights and rule of law. It's almost a no-brainer. The "2003 Index of Economic Freedom," published by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal, lists Botswana, South Africa and Namibia as "mostly free." World Bank 2002 country per capita GDP rankings put Botswana 89th ($2,980), South Africa 94th ($2,600) and Namibia 111th ($1,700). Is there any mystery why they're well ahead of their northern neighbors, such as Mozambique 195th ($210), Liberia 201st ($150) or Ethiopia 206th ($100)?

Perhaps the economist who's theories are of greatist utility to Africa just now is Hernando de Soto, who believes in the principal duty of government to assure private property rights, thus faciliting capital formation.
5.1.2006 1:18pm
Gordo:
Galbraith wrote a good little book on stock market manias and the Great Depression. His version of the story still holds up despite the attempts of free market revisionists to do for the Great Depression what the 1960's left-wing revisionists tried to do for the Cold War. Conventional wisdom is, every once in a while, accurate.

I also think his famous statement from The Affluent Society about private affluence and public squalor has conintuing resonance for our modern times.
5.1.2006 1:20pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
What African countries need, the West cannot give. In a word, what Africans need is personal liberty. That means a political system where there are guarantees of private property rights and rule of law.

The idea that "private property rights" somehow guarantees personal liberties is way too simplistic. It is easy to imagine a state, and history is full of examples--the antebellum U.S. being a prime one--that staunchly defend "private property rights" and the rule of law prevail, but where personal liberty for a large portion of the population are severely curtailed or even nonexistent. If a small minority of the population owns most of the property, then there is going to be very little personal liberty for the vast majority of the people.
5.1.2006 1:46pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Freder, it's - well - ridiculous, to say that the antebellum South had meaningful property rights. Property rights are only meaningful if everyone has them. The South had a class of slave-owners and a class of slaves, who could not own property, and were in fact themselves property. Somehow I don't think that's what people mean by "property rights." But hey, and I've said this to you before, it's a fetching straw man you got there.
5.1.2006 2:02pm
WAL:

In fact, quite the contrary has been proven. Reagan's dalliance with supply side left us with massive deficits that required ten years of tax increases (starting in his second term btw) to dig ourselves out of.


Tax revenues declined once during the 80s. I forget the exact year, but I think in 82 it declined by 18 billion. Tax revenues increased during the decade from to ~500 billion to 1980 to a trillion in in 1988. It increased through Reagan's first term to $734 billion in 1985.

http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0104753.html

If spending had only increased by 300 billion from 1980 to 1990, we would have had a balanced budget by the end of the decade.

http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0104753.html

(In case anybody wants to blame this on the defence, the military budget in 1988 was around $300 billion. If we had almost completely eliminated the military, that would have achieved a balanced budget. The increase in spending on social programs (which some people will still decide to blame Reagan for, I'll toss it at Congress's feet) was much greater than the increase on defense.

-

Probably the earliest turning point in my politics was realizing that this axiom on taxes was stated as an unquestionable fact by the press/democrats/economists I saw on TV as a kid throughout the 80s-when any of them could have just picked up an almanac, looked at revenues, and saw it wasn't accurate. I know this is conventional wisdom, but it's just not true.
5.1.2006 2:15pm
Swimmy:
Anderson, Galbraith argued that large businesses in the new era would be essentially immune to market forces. Some have failed through incompetence (Enron) and that others have failed due to competition. Eastern Air Lines is a very notable example because it was airline deregulation which brought about its downfall--it could not sustain its high costs in a competitive environment. One of Galbraith's favorite punching bags was General Motors. He claimed that their popularity had stifled innovation in car design. Now General Motors is almost universally regarded as a doomed business.

Indeed, it's the weeding out of inefficient firms that competition does best.

I was glib because a blog comment is no place for an in-depth study. But in-depth studies have proven that competitive forces are at work in corporate America. Indeed, the most widespread criticism of Galbraith is that he was a theorist rather than a scholar, a speaker rather than an empiricist. Others praise him for the same thing. To each his own, I suppose.
5.1.2006 2:16pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Federson: "The idea that 'private property rights' somehow guarantees personal liberties is way too simplistic."

de Soto deals with this in detail in The Mystery of Capital.

Public_Defender: "Some thoughtful criticism is fair when it comes to recently deceased public figures. But it requires both dignity and tact, both of which are in short supply in this comment thread."

One wonders if it might have been considered bad form to spit upon Mussolini's corpse.

Anderson: "Otherwise, I suppose Enron would be a refutation of JKG."

The principals of a criminal enterprise (which, btw, was allowed to flourish under a "leftist" administration) are being brought to justice. This has little to do with economic theory.
5.1.2006 2:28pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
The principals of a criminal enterprise (which, btw, was allowed to flourish under a "leftist" administration) are being brought to justice. This has little to do with economic theory.

This is laughable because the right, especially the libertarian wing of the right, is constantly screaming of smaller government and less regulation, which means more of the kind of criminal enterprise, or even making what Enron did not illegal at all. After all why have accounting standards at all, isn't that just a useless government regulation hindering the free flow of capital and discouraging innovative thinking and business practices?
5.1.2006 2:52pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Some thoughtful criticism is fair when it comes to recently deceased public figures. But it requires both dignity and tact, both of which are in short supply in this comment thread.

I was actually musing about this in traffic this morning, apropos of wondering what the correct response would be to news that a certain White House occupant had been killed. The time between the death and the funeral should be attack-free, I concluded.

That said, JKG and other thinkers wrote to be criticized, so it seems they're big enough boys that no decorous lull is required.
5.1.2006 3:02pm
Some Guy (mail):
If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error.
5.1.2006 5:43pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Frederson, your ignorance astonishes me - particularly as you are a regular on this site, where Eugene has frequently wrote about the relative virtues of regulated vs. tortious controls upon malevolent business practices.
5.1.2006 6:17pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Let's get this straight, Frederson: what you are saying is that "all libertarians subscribe to such-and-such thought." By the same measure, we might say, "all Muslims subscribe to the same doctrine as al-Qeada."

This gives one license for genocide. Are you a genocidist, Frederson?
5.1.2006 7:46pm
Howard257 (mail):
I'll miss him about as much as I miss Andrea Dworkin.
5.1.2006 8:07pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Who? Frederson? I don't see that he's going anywhere. Of course, if he had any measure of shame (and perhaps the same might be said for JKG), he might never show his face here again.
5.1.2006 8:16pm
justanotherguy (mail):
What I find shameful is that there are still people who try to defend the big government control economics of JKG and others like him. There is a great experiment going on with globalization. Those countries that are free grow and provide, those that aren't do not and become worse off.

There is so much data and examples out there... but the ideal of power by the government running the economy and controlling that power is just too tempting... May willful blindness.
5.1.2006 9:04pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Yes, justanotherguy. And this is a paradigm which dates back to enlightenment-era mercantilism. So many want to continue it pro se, save for in the name of the global collective known as the "UN". The more things change, the more they stay the same.
5.1.2006 9:48pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Eugene has frequently wrote about the relative virtues of regulated vs. tortious controls upon malevolent business practices.

Maybe I've missed them, but if he thinks that the tort system is more efficient, he is even more whacked out than I thought.
5.1.2006 10:15pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Those countries that are free grow and provide, those that aren't do not and become worse off.

Oh really, and your examples would be?
5.1.2006 10:17pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Frederson:

Eugene has frequently wrote about the relative virtues of regulated vs. tortious controls upon malevolent business practices.

Maybe I've missed them, but if he thinks that the tort system is more efficient, he is even more whacked out than I thought.

Actually, he has defended the regulatory regime. Which makes him a paragon of pragmatic libertarianism, and a discreditation to your hyperbole.

But, as I intimated before, the fact that you don't already know this, considering the fact that you have long frequented this site, is strongly indicative that you really have your head up your ass.
5.1.2006 11:05pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Actually, he has defended the regulatory regime. Which makes him a paragon of pragmatic libertarianism, and a discreditation to your hyperbole.

So, kill me because I pick and choose the threads I comment on. I do have other things to do, you know. And btw, pragmatic libertarianism sounds like an oxymoron to me. But what else should I expect from someone who claims to be a libertarian, yet draws his paycheck from a state agency.
5.1.2006 11:22pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Gordo:

Galbraith wrote a good little book on stock market manias and the Great Depression. His version of the story still holds up despite the attempts of free market revisionists to do for the Great Depression what the 1960's left-wing revisionists tried to do for the Cold War. Conventional wisdom is, every once in a while, accurate.

Actually, the best that can be said of Rooseveltian fascism, is that it saved America from devolution into Marxism.
5.1.2006 11:24pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Actually, the best that can be said of Rooseveltian fascism, is that it saved America from devolution into Marxism.

Which, after all was Galbraith's point, he wanted to save Capitalism from the wild swings that would invite violent and destabilzing reactions to the peaks and valleys (or as Lenin put it, "when it comes time to hang the capitalists, they will sell us the rope").

As an aside to call the economic policies of the Roosevelt "fascism" is way over the top and a slander on one of the greatest presidents this country has known. Only a self-absorbed, selfish product of this generation could so misrepresent and misinterpret history as to call Roosevelt a "fascist" (and now I am sure you will back off and claim you never called Roosevelt a fascist, just his policies. Bullshit)
5.1.2006 11:35pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Frederson:

[P]ragmatic libertarianism sounds like an oxymoron to me.

Say like moderate Islamic? Really, Frederson, you are sounding more and more like a genocidist to me.

[S]omeone who claims to be a libertarian, yet draws his paycheck from a state agency.
c

Erroneous though it may be, the fact that you claim to know from where I draw my sustenance gives me great alarm, as if you are some sort of stalker. But, none the less, were a libertarian to be on government payroll (I think Eugene could be counted here), or drawing state aid, could it not be consummate to the "pragmatic" realization that, for him/her, the state is the only game in town?
5.1.2006 11:42pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
No, I won't "back off" a bit. Hell, I have labeled Lincoln the "Great Traitor."

The fact is, Roosevelt's policies were fascist, and his legacy lives on today. We can see it in proposed legislation pursuant to the supposed "energy crisis."
5.1.2006 11:53pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Erroneous though it may be, the fact that you claim to know from where I draw my sustenance gives me great alarm, as if you are some sort of stalker. But, none the less, were a libertarian to be on government payroll (I think Eugene could be counted here), or drawing state aid, could it not be consummate to the "pragmatic" realization that, for him/her, the state is the only game in town?

That barb was pointed directly at Eugene, not you. I find it the height of hypocracy that the great libertarians in the blogosphere (Eugene, Glenn Reynolds, and although I don't read her much but I assume she is a libertarian as much as Eugene cites her fondly, Ann Althouse) are all law professors at public universities. There are plenty of private law schools, private law practice or libertarian think tanks where they could earn a living that was not off the backs of us poor taxpayers.
5.1.2006 11:56pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
AppSocRes says:

It's mean-spirited to attack a man who can no longer defend himself.

Not another bad word about the Austrian corporal. Not a word.

LOL.
5.1.2006 11:59pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
If spending had only increased by 300 billion from 1980 to 1990, we would have had a balanced budget by the end of the decade.

And if I could pick the winning lotto number every week, I would be a billionaire.
5.2.2006 12:02am
WAL:

And if I could pick the winning lotto number every week, I would be a billionaire.


?

What in the world does that have to do with the argument?

Tax revenues surged in the 80s.

Tax revenues surged during Reagan's first term.

If you're just intent on being the last person to respond to post, why not just type "I know you are, but what am I?" It would also be pointless, but at least it'd make sense.
5.2.2006 12:28am
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Frederson:

That barb was pointed directly at Eugene, not you. I find it the height of hypocracy that the great libertarians in the blogosphere (Eugene, Glenn Reynolds, and although I don't read her much but I assume she is a libertarian as much as Eugene cites her fondly, Ann Althouse) are all law professors at public universities.

Ah, this be the makings of another thread in itself! Do our esteemed hosts, and putative "opinion leaders" occupy their "day jobs" simply because they are cushy berths, or because they are indeed "the only game in town"?
5.2.2006 12:51am
WAL:
Freder, in all seriousness, you do know what supply-side economics is right?

You realize that the House proposes a budget, then sends it to the President? And that the House was controlled by Democrats in the 80s?...The President opposed them...The Dems, the people proposing the budget, didn't like supply-side economics and didn't model their policies after his. You realize all this right? I know this is patronizing, but it's like you're tossing crap against a wall to see what sticks. You understand all this? You're arguments on this would make a lot more sense if you weren't sure on all of that.
5.2.2006 12:52am
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
That Frederson is not so versed in both history and economic theory as some of the rest of us is quite evident. But I was working at a tact that might lead him to figure things out for himself.
5.2.2006 1:34am
Freder Frederson (mail):
I know what supply-side economics is and the theory that revenues surge when taxes are lowered because the economy expands and the tax cuts pay for themselves. Consequently when the tax rate is lowered to zero, revenue will become infinite (I think I did the math right).

Three problems with the theory. Although revenues do indeed rise, they have yet to pay for themselves (that is, increase more than the corresponding loss in revenue caused by the decrease in the tax rate). Also, no matter how much revenues go up, if the government is not taking in enough money to cover its obligations and the tax structure is such that long term solvency is an unachievable goal (as it was in the 80's and it is now), then the government is headed for eventual disaster. Also, the predicted economic disaster that was sure to follow the Clinton tax increases of the early 90's never occurred. In fact just the opposite happened.

So you can spout off all you want about "tax revenues surging" or supply side being foiled by those duplicitous Democrats (what's your excuse this time?). But the fact remains, if government revenue doesn't equal obligations, and the trend is long term, we are in deep trouble.
5.2.2006 10:21am
Tareeq (www):
I know what supply-side economics is

Oh?

and the theory that revenues surge when taxes are lowered because the economy expands and the tax cuts pay for themselves. Consequently when the tax rate is lowered to zero, revenue will become infinite (I think I did the math right).

Impeached!

Look up the Laffer curve.
5.2.2006 1:49pm
Roger Sweeny (mail):
An interesting column on JKG, which locates him as the most successful modern exponent of the idea that people don't know what they really want--an idea that comes to us from just about every religion, and, of course, also from the anti-religious in the guise of "false consciousness."

http://www.reason.com/links/links050106.shtml
5.2.2006 6:46pm
Statman (mail):
I don't know about the rest of you, but reading JKG ("The Affluent Society") in the early 1970's kept me interested in economics. I was an econ major but was rapidly tiring of the arms-length equations, cumbersome charts &incomprehensible graphs and was thus considering switching majors.

Reading Galbraith showed me that economists could be witty and actually write coherent sentences. That economics was relevant and its study actually involved people.

I taught economics for 28 years but never forgot his insights and cogent observations.
5.10.2006 12:10am