Saturday, April 29, 2006

John Kenneth Galbraith

One of my heros has passed on. Liberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith died at the ripe old age of 97. I had been hoping he would make it to 100.

John Kenneth Galbraith, the Harvard professor who won worldwide renown as a liberal economist, backstage politician and witty chronicler of affluent society, died Saturday night, his son said. He was 97.
Galbraith died of natural causes at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, where he was admitted nearly two weeks ago, Alan Galbraith said.
During a long career, the Canadian-born economist served as adviser to Democratic presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, and was John F. Kennedy's ambassador to India.

I just recently noted that Galbraith headed a list of prominent 90 year olds. He was also on my list of the 100 people who have most influenced me during my life.

The one time I got to see John Kenneth Galbraith in person was when I still considered myself to be a Republican. I was at Texas A&M and attended a special program that featured William F. Buckley Jr., the prominent conservative I knew from his PBS show "Firing Line". I attended the event wanting to see Buckley and had no idea who the fellow was he would be debating. As it turned out, his debate partner was Galbraith and they were arguing over the merits of having a strong federal government, with Galbraith naturally taking the pro-government side.
While I didn't immediately change my views after that event, I did walk away with a favorable impression of Galbraith and over time I gained more and more respect for him as my opinion of Buckley declined.
Galbraith was a prolific author and today I own about a dozen of his books. But then, that was about the only way to get his viewpoint. While Buckley had his own TV show, his own magazine and a nationally syndicated column, Galbraith's only outlet was through his books which I would pick up at Half-Price Bookstore every chance I got.
It's a shame that more people end up being exposed to that blowhard Buckley than they are to Galbraith. I think it explains in part why the electorate is so foolish as to put incompentent people like George W. Bush in the White House.

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