Monday, May 01, 2006

John Kenneth Galbraith... and how to learn about economics

Continuing to troll the obits for my posts, I see that John Kenneth Galbraith has died. I've always known he was a major name in economics but I've never read any of his books, and didn't really know what his ideas were.
Here's a couple of quotes from the NY Times obituary:

[In his 1958 book The Affluent Society] he argued that America had become so obsessed with overproducing consumer goods that it had increased the perils of both inflation and recession by creating an artificial demand for frivolous or useless products, by encouraging overextension of consumer credit and by emphasizing the private sector at the expense of the public sector. He declared that this obsession with products like the biggest and fastest automobile damaged the quality of life in America by creating "private opulence and public squalor."
He remained optimistic about the ability of government to improve the lot of the less fortunate. "Let there be a coalition of the concerned," he urged. "The affluent would still be affluent, the comfortable still comfortable, but the poor would be part of the political system."

Has anyone read his work? What did you think?

I've often thought that if I could go back and re-do college, I would definitely have taken some classes in economics. I'm sure some readers out there will have ideas on this-- what are the top 5 books to read as a substitute for Econ 101?


Dwight said...

After my last post, it's no secret I'm not in the JK Galbraith fanclub. While not strictly a follower of Keynes, he too believed big government was good and that it could help the economy when the business community stumbled. And having lived through the economic debacle that was the 1970s, I see his fingerprints all over it.

Because of his orientation, Galbraith looked at the USSR and saw what our economic model should look more like (see here for an old but good article).

While not solely an economic text, the mentioned (in the linked article) "The Road to Serfdom" by Hayek is a must-read in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I liked "Armchair Economist" by Steven Landsburg. It was an assigned piece in b-school that I actually flip through now and again.

thc said...

Anyone who is serious about learning economic theory must read Galbraith. Just be sure to balance it with something a little less socialistic.

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