Monday, May 01, 2006

JK Galbraith dies, aged 97

The economist John Kenneth Galbraith has died. Famous for his attacks on conventional economics, those that met him claim he remained witty and lucid until he died aged 97. His theories regarding corporate power, the lack of distinction between public and private sectors, and his critique of the financial system ring as sonorously today as they did in his 1950s heyday. As an institutional economist, Galbraith believed a holistic view of the economy was the only way to give an adequate description of the way resources are distributed around the economy. As such, analysis of power relationships, the social environment in which transactions take place, the role of information and its ability to be distorted come to the fore. That such a heretic, in the tradition of Thorstein Veblen, became professor at Harvard University is testament to the power of his mind and the creativity of his rhetoric. Being a warden in John F Kennedy's halls of residence also may have had something to do with it.

As I have incessantly argued on this blog, the idea that resources controlled by human actors should be described by a discipline that strips all humanity from its theories amounts to something of a travesty. Galbraith's thinking precisely encapsulates this view; let us hope economics learns the lesson.

Recommended Links
The full obituary
Brad De Long's post on JKG

1 comment:

sonia said...

way to go Fluffy! great post. and these institutional economists need talking about more. when i first heard the term 'institutional' economics i thought it was very amusing how ordinary economics goes about ignoring 'institutions'.

Ridiculous!

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