Institutional Economics - Institutional Economics - John Kenneth Galbraith

John Kenneth Galbraith

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908–2006) worked in the New Deal administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Although he wrote later, and was more developed than the earlier institutional economists, Galbraith was critical of orthodox economics throughout the late twentieth century. In The Affluent Society (1958), Galbraith argues voters reaching a certain material wealth begin to vote against the common good. He coins the term "conventional wisdom" to refer to the orthodox ideas that underpin the resulting conservative consensus.

In an age of big business, it is unrealistic to think only of markets of the classical kind. Big businesses set their own terms in the marketplace, and use their combined resources for advertising programmes to support demand for their own products. As a result, individual preferences actually reflect the preferences of entrenched corporations, a "dependence effect", and the economy as a whole is geared to irrational goals. In The New Industrial State Galbraith argues that economic decisions are planned by a private bureaucracy, a technostructure of experts who manipulate is marketing and public relations channels. This hierarchy is self-serving, profits are no longer the prime motivator, and even managers are not in control. Because they are the new planners, corporations detest risk, requiring steady economic and stable markets. They recruit governments to serve their interests with fiscal and monetary policy. While the goals of an affluent society and complicit government serve the irrational technostructure, public space is simultaneously impoverished. Galbraith paints the picture of stepping from penthouse villas on to unpaved streets, from landscaped gardens to unkempt public parks. In Economics and the Public Purpose (1973) Galbraith advocates a "new socialism" (social democracy) as the solution, with nationalization of military production and public services such as health care, plus disciplined salary and price controls to reduce inequality.

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