ECONOMICS IN PERSPECTIVE: A Critical History by John Kenneth Galbraith


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A breezy, name-dropping history of economic thought from the perspective of an abiding liberal who's convinced the dismal science can be divorced from its sociopolitcal context only at the risk of misjudgments and policy errors. An accomplished annalist as well as an acute analyst, Galbraith offers capsule commentary on significant contributors to the development of economic ideas from Aristotle through Keynes and beyond. With comparatively few exceptions--Roman law (which recognized private property), Aquinas (who devoutly believed in a ""just price"" for goods and services), mercantilism, the French physiocrates (originators of laissez-faire doctrine), et al.--he finds few individuals or institutions of substantive interest between Adam and Adam Smith. With the advent of the industrial revolution, however, Galbraith's roll call expands in agreeably digressive, often jocular fashion. At one point, he notes that, while Smith, Ricardo, Malthus, and their contemporaries or successors influenced views of the socioeconomic order, ""Karl Marx shaped the history of the world."" In like vein, the author asserts that the Depression was the making of Keynes and his disciples (whose ranks included Adolph Hitler). Keynesian economics could not cope with either wage/price inflation or OPEC's interim impact, Galbraith concludes, so interventionist orthodoxies gave way to Milton Friedman and monetarism. A hit-the-high-points survey that borrows from the author's more substantive works (The Great Crash, The Affluent Society, The New Industrial State, Money, et al.). The text affords an engaging, opinionated introduction to economic theory and practice down through the ages.

Pub Date: Oct. 7th, 1987
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin