John Kenneth Galbraith (October 15, 1908–April 29, 2006) was an influential Canadian-American economist. He was a Keynesian and an institutionalist, a leading proponent of 20th-century American liberalism and progressivism. His books on economic topics were bestsellers in the 1950s and 1960s.
Some of Galbraith's Ideas
In The Affluent Society Galbraith asserts that classical economic theory was true for the eras before the present, which were times of "poverty"; now, however, we have moved from an age of poverty to an age of "affluence," and for such an age, a completely new economic theory is needed.
Galbraith's main argument is that as society becomes relatively more affluent, so private business must "create" consumer wants through advertising, and while this generates artificial affluence through the production of commercial goods and services, the public sector becomes neglected as a result. He points out that while many Americans were able to purchase luxury items, their parks were polluted and their children attended poorly maintained schools. He argues that markets alone will underprovide (or fail to provide at all) for many public goods, whereas private goods are typically 'overprovided' due to the process of advertising creating an artificial demand above the individual's basic needs.
Galbraith proposed curbing the consumption of certain products through greater use of consumption taxes, arguing that this could be more efficient than other forms of taxation, such as labour or land taxes.
Galbraith's major proposal was a program he called "investment in men" — a large-scale publicly-funded education program aimed at empowering ordinary citizens. Galbraith wished to entrust citizens with the future of the American republic.
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