Friday, May 12, 2006

Galbraith as Leftist Intellectual

Clive Crook discusses economist John Kenneth Galbraith and his role in modern political discourse. His conclusion:
Much of the Left still longs to sneer at the very idea of capitalism, especially at the claim that it has real ethical foundations (all the more so, in comparison with the attempted alternatives). There is still a wish to regard the whole thing as a scam: gulled and witless consumers; scheming and rapacious businesses; phony markets and bogus "competition"; politicians, media hacks, and other assorted apologists for "the system," all cozily in the pockets of the people in charge. It is a comprehensively false diagnosis. From a narrower political point of view, it is also, most likely, a self-defeating sentiment, because in America (though not in Europe) this mind-set makes it harder to win elections, not easier.

Galbraith dignified that self-defeating sentiment, dressed it in professorial robes, and expressed it with wonderful wit and elegance. He did his followers, who loved him for it, no favors.