THE GOOD SOCIETY by John Kenneth Galbraith


The Humane Agenda
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 Always more of a critic than a scholar, Galbraith (The Culture of Contentment, 1992, etc.) here offers an exiguous primer on what, in his unabashedly partisan view, would constitute an attainably good society. Apparently assuming the truth of his progressive proposals to be self-evident, the octogenarian economist does not trouble to examine, let alone analyze, the varied elements of his construct at any length. Asserting that the welfare state is the result of historical forces (rather than political will) and that a modern consumer economy cannot perform satisfactorily without government intervention, the author starts by declaring that a good society should afford all of its members access to a rewarding life; it must also provide financial security for the aged, unemployment compensation for the jobless, a minimum wage, health care for all, strict regulation of working conditions, and price protection for farmers. Among other means to these ends, the author advocates progressive taxation; a willingness to tolerate moderate rates of inflation; less concern with federal budget deficits; curbs on speculation; and energetic efforts to counter swings in the business cycle. Galbraith goes on to laud the high returns yielded by substantive and systematic investments in education. Also high on his list of priorities are safeguards for the environment, a relatively open door for immigrants (who do society's heavy lifting), and a foreign policy calculated to ensure peaceful relations with other countries great and small. Galbraith argues that society should now look beyond the narrow confines of the nation-state to the brave new multilateral world that lies ahead. In the meantime, he urges Democrats to establish coalitions of the caring and compassionate to get out the vote for their party in future elections. An elder eminence's meagerly substantiated but righteously framed prescriptions for creating collective heavens on earth.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1996
ISBN: 0-395-71328-5
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1996


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