THE VOICE OF THE POOR: Essays in Economic and Political Persuasion by John Kenneth Galbraith

THE VOICE OF THE POOR: Essays in Economic and Political Persuasion

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Four brief essays adapted from the Rajaji Lectures which Galbraith, a former US ambassador to India, delivered in Bombay in early 1982--specifying ""advice which the old countries should be hearing from the new."" A mere cover, the titular echo notwithstanding, for Galbraith's appeal to historical process. This, he contends, requires political and cultural development (stable government, universal education) to precede economic development: the advanced capitalist and socialist countries should therefore not apply economic designs ""appropriate to their own late stage of development"" to the new nations, ""which are in earlier stages."" Galbraith unlike others, is not just talking about appropriate technology--and he would shift aid from factories to schools. But he is also--academically? unrealistically? inappropriately?--asking the politically and culturally underdeveloped to catch up before building factories. A more genuine ""accommodation to the realities of our time"" is his call for both the US and the USSR to recognize that the new nations ""reject domination by either of the great powers"": nonintervention is not weakness; imperialism is dead. Similarly, nuclear conflict will shatter the advanced economies on both sides (""the ashes of capitalism will be indistinguishable. . ."")--incidentally leveling rich and poor--while the current flow of advanced weaponry from rich to poor is ""militarily irrelevant"" and internally destabilizing. This last argument, which Galbraith caps by calling upon the poor to ""reject the weapons,"" is at once visionary and clever and logically inconsistent: an appeal, against historical process, to ""prove that the flow of wisdom is not associated with per capita income."" The final, tangential essay--linked by reference to organizational changes--contains Galbraith's prescriptions for the ailing US economy (less monetarism, more fiscal policy, a wage/price policy). Lesser Galbraith, but not slight.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1983
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press