Obituary: John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006)

In the passing away of John Kenneth Galbraith, the world has lost the last of the economic philosophers with a heart. By Rex Mathew.

John Kenneth GalbraithJohn Kenneth Galbraith, noted economist, liberal thinker and prolific writer belonged to the old school of socialist leaning liberal intellectuals. He was a staunch believer of Keynesian economics and a critic of free market economics and big businesses.

A Canadian by birth, Galbraith started his teaching career at the University of California after completing his PhD from the same University. Later, he taught at the Universities of Princeton and Harvard. At Harvard, he was the Paul M Warburg Professor of Economics, Emeritus. He also became a fellow of Trinity College, University of Cambridge.

He worked in the government during the Second World War in various capacities. He was in charge of wartime price control and also became the director of US Strategic Bombing Survey. Later he became the director of Economic Security Policy in the US state department.

In his most well known work, The Affluent Society, he argued that the US government should increase its spending on public goods like basic infrastructure and education. He favoured higher taxation to fund these programmes, which he believed would lead to sustained economic development in the post-war era.

His ideas influenced the John F Kennedy administration to launch a massive public spending programme, dubbed as 'war on poverty'. This programme, which produced mixed results, was continued by successive democratic administrations.