May 4, 2006
It is interesting that the passing of one of the most eminent modern* liberal economists of the 20th Century comes just as orthodox market economics is besieged in much of the world, and even in this country, to an extent. Galbraith was perhaps most famous for his book The Affluent Society, a critique of America's awkward adjustment to mass wealth and recipe book of statist cures. In today's Washington Post, George Will writes that the The Harvard economist's main legacy was to instill in Democrats an elitist condescension toward average Americans. That attitude plagues the Democrats' efforts to make a sincere appeal to voters to this very day. Will also perceives the echoes of Galbraithian elitism in the McCain-Feingold Act.
I once read Galbraith's earlier book The New Industrial State, which made some good points about the trend toward oligopoly in the American manufacturing sector, making it less responsive to market forces. There were two major flaws in that book, however. First, his suggested remedy of building up a strong regulatory state with "countervailing power" against the industrial giants neglected the possibility that Big Government might end up "in bed with" Big Business, rather than policing it. Second, economic globalization severely curtailed the relative size and influence of American industry, and without a world government, of course, there can be no such "countervailing power" to global corporations.
* "modern" liberal as in not "classical" liberal
So I'm not the only one after all! Yesterday's Washington Post profiled Rod Dreher, a young columnist and author from Dallas who defies conventional stereotypes by having a whole-grain, all-natural lifestyle even as he espouses conservative political opinions. He recently wrote a book, Crunchy Cons (as in granola), which sounds like it's right up my alley. In January 2005 I posited a strong (potential) harmony between political conservatism and wildlife conservation. How is it possible to reconcile such seemingly opposite approaches to life? Just "Think Different." It's easy if you try.