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Welcome to Lachlan Cranswick's Personal Homepage in Melbourne, Australia

Extracts from "The Culture of Contentment" by John Kenneth Galbraith (First Published 1992) ISBN 0-395-57228-2

Lachlan's Homepage is at http://lachlan.bluehaze.com.au

[Back to Lachlan's Homepage] | [What's New at Lachlan's Homepage] | [Historial things, Literature and Poetry] | [Literature]

[Galbraith: The Great Crash: 1929] | [Galbraith: Culture of Contentment] | [Galbraith: Money]
[Popper: Open Society and its Enemies vol 1] | [Popper: Open Society and its Enemies vol 2]
[Maggee: on the Philosphy of Karl Popper] | [Popper: Poverty of Historicism]
[Beard: An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States]

Extracts from "The Culture of Contentment", John Kenneth Galbraith, First Published 1992 ISBN 0-395-57228-2

From the Introduction: The Culture of Contentment, Page 9

Discontent and the downfall of European Communism

Extracts from "The Culture of Contentment", John Kenneth Galbraith, First Published 1992 ISBN 0-395-57228-2

"Evidence of mass dissatisfaction was almost certainly available. There were secret police to inform on such matters, and while liberty has anciently been served by police incompetence, that has its limits. In some of these countries - East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary - television told of the living standards, the consumer enjoyments (and frivolities) in neighboring Austria and West Germany. Similar strong word came from the United States. There was obvious question as to why they were denied at home.

To the old leaders, however, and those in prestigious association therewith there was the comfort of convenient belief. They were protected in their fortunate position by the presumed power of socialist principles, adherence to which assured survival. They were in the great and immutable current of history identified by all time by Marx and Lenin. It was agreed that the transition, admittedly gradual, to the ultimate and benign world of complete Communism would require their own interim exercise of power - the dictatorship of the proletariat, also called by them the democracy of the masses. This authority those in power could not but suppose was accepted. Thus, to repeat, was belief accommodated to the need and comfort of the favoured. So it was until the day when the crowds flooded into the streets and showed, not to the surprise of the old leaders alone, that if the numbers are great enough, no armed response is serviceable. This took place first in Eastern Europe and then, in the late summer days of 1991, in the Soviet Union."

From The Economic Accommodation, I, Page 80 to 81

Thorstein Veblen defining the rich and powerful in anthropological terms

Extracts from "The Culture of Contentment", John Kenneth Galbraith, First Published 1992 ISBN 0-395-57228-2

"Such was the service of economics to early capitalism. And such service continued. Toward the end of the last century, in what has now come down to us as the Gilded Age, Herbert Spencer avowed the economic and social doctrine of the survival of the fittest - it is to him and not to Darwin that we owe those words. Though British, Spencer was a figure of heroic proportions in the United States, as were his disciples. His most distinguished acolyte, William Graham Sumner of Yale, served the gilded constituency in remarkable explicit language: "The millionaires are a product of natural selection . . . They may fairly be regarded as the naturally selected agents of society for certain work. They get high wages and live in luxury, but the bargain is a good one for society."

Thorstein Veblen, who, oddly, was one of Sumner's students, did, it must be said, acquire even greater fame for his inconvenient treatment of this doctrine. The rich and the powerful he saw in anthropological terms - their habits of life were those of tribal leaders; their enjoyments, tribal rites - and he so described them."

From The Reckoning, I, Page 159

Equitable Distributions of Income

Extracts from "The Culture of Contentment", John Kenneth Galbraith, First Published 1992 ISBN 0-395-57228-2

"The long years of high budget deficits when they were not needed made it seemingly impossible to initiate stimulating public expenditures when they were now needed. The celebrated tax reductions for the upper-income brackets and the accompanying economics in welfare distribution had substituted the discretionary spending of the rich for the wholly reliable spending of the poor. A reasonably equitable distribution of income is thought by individuals of liberal disposition to be politically virtuous; in fact, it is economically highly functional."

From The Reckoning, I, Page 160

Franklin Roosevelt and him being pilloried as a traitor to his class

Extracts from "The Culture of Contentment", John Kenneth Galbraith, First Published 1992 ISBN 0-395-57228-2

"In the 1930s, the community of well-being powerfully resented the ameliorating measures promulgated by Franklin Roosevelt. He came to office in 1932 partly on the strength of a powerful promise to balance the federal budget and otherwise batten down the hatches for the then still comfortable. In this respect, as I have earlier indicated, his election involved a substantial measure of deception, and in ensuing years he was pilloried as no President had been since for his failure to keep the faith; he was widely called a traitor to his class, and class being the smaller but fully contented. The American Liberty League, a business and financial convocation that identified freedom, as so often, with priviledged affluence, came into existence solely to oppose him. Of the Social Security Act of 1935, the most durable and important of the curative actions, a leading congressional spokesman for the opposition said, with no intended exaggeration, "Never in the history of the world has any measure been brought in here so insidiously designed as to prevent business recovery, to enslave workers, and to prevent any possibility of the employers providing work for the people." A no less fervent colleague said more succinctly, "The lash of the dictator will be felt." The Roosevelt revolution succeeded only because the deprived, supported by the socially concerned, became the electoral majority in the 1930s. What is important to remember as a lesson from those distant years is the number and unyielding opposition of those whose comfort was invaded or seemingly threatened."

From The Reckoning, I, Page 163

Justifying inaction during recessions

Extracts from "The Culture of Contentment", John Kenneth Galbraith, First Published 1992 ISBN 0-395-57228-2

"The recession of the early 1990s was a demonstration of the point. Proposals for compensatory action and mitigation of the newly inflicted hardship were for many months sketchy in the extreme and for long won little backing from either political party. The suffering, physical and psychic, was not wholly denied, but it was deemed to be caused by a normal and self-correcting aspect of the system, and from this came the promise of a prompt recovery. In an interesting recapture of the 1930s, the only declared therapy to relieve the hardship became oratory - the promise from Washington that the recession, however disagreeable for those affected, would be shallow and short. Joseph Schumpeter's view of recession and depression as therapeutic was not quite revived; instead, the yet more ancient view of the inevitability and automaticity of the cyclical process was substituted. This became the consensus; the contented were still in control."

From Requiem, Page 174

Books expected to have a happy ending

Extracts from "The Culture of Contentment", John Kenneth Galbraith, First Published 1992 ISBN 0-395-57228-2

"Books of this genre are expected to have a happy ending. With awareness of what is wrong, the corrective forces of democracy are set in motion. And perhaps they would be now where they in a full democracy - one that embraced the interests and votes of all the citizens. Those how outside the contented majority would rally, or, more precisely, could be rallied, to their own interest and therewith to the larger and safer public interest. Alas, however, we speak here of a democracy of those with the least sense of urgency to correct what is wrong, the best insulation through short-run comfort from what could go wrong."

From Requiem, Page 176

Learning from the failure of Communism

Extracts from "The Culture of Contentment", John Kenneth Galbraith, First Published 1992 ISBN 0-395-57228-2

"The central requirement cannot be escaped: almost every action that would remedy and reassure involves the relationship between the citizen and the state. In the Communist world in the long years before collapse all concessions to the market were resisted as concessions to capitalism; they were, to remind, inconsistent with the accepted principles of socialism. It was, however, almost certainly6 by such concessions, especially in the diverse world of consumer goods and services and agriculture - economic activity beyond the reach and competence of the command system - that Communism cum socialism might have been saved. In a perverse way, the same is now true of modern capitalism. Although intervention by the state on a wide and varied front once saved capitalism, there is now a resistance to the state action that is necessary to ensure an economically successful and socially tranquil future. The dialectic of modern capitalist, or more precisely the modern mixed, economy all but exclusively involves the role of government. In the dialectic this is extensively ideological; in everyday manifestation it is highly pragmatic. And, to repeat, no subtlety conceals the needed attitude and action."

From Requiem, Page 179

Controlling role of taxation

Extracts from "The Culture of Contentment", John Kenneth Galbraith, First Published 1992 ISBN 0-395-57228-2

"The controlling role of taxation continues. The only effective design for diminishing the income inequality inherent in capitalism is the progressive income tax. Nothing in the age of contentment has contributed so strongly to income inequality as the reduction of taxes on the rich; nothing, as has been said, so contributes to social tranquility as some screams of anguish form the very affluent. That taxes should now be used to reduce the inequality is, however, clearly outside the realm of comfortable thought. Here the collision between wise social action and the culture of contentment is most apparent."

From Requiem, Page 182

Repairing some of the problems

Extracts from "The Culture of Contentment", John Kenneth Galbraith, First Published 1992 ISBN 0-395-57228-2

"In an early chapter I raised the possibility that, in the future, near or far, a candidate for the American presidency will emerge who is committed to the human needs and remedies briefly just mentioned. And perhaps, if the electorate is enlarged to include the economically and socially now-disenfranchised, he or she will succeed and bring along a favouring majority in the Congress. As I said before, the prospect is not bright

In the past, writers, on taking pen, have assumed that from the power of their talented prose must proceed the remedial action. No one would be more delighted that I were there similar hope from the present offering. Alas, however, there is not. Perhaps as a slight, not wholly inconsequential service, it can be said that we have here had the chance to see and in some small measure to understand the present discontent and dissonance and the not inconsiderable likelihood of an eventual shock to the contentment that is the cause."


[Galbraith: The Great Crash: 1929] | [Galbraith: Culture of Contentment] | [Galbraith: Money]
[Popper: Open Society and its Enemies vol 1] | [Popper: Open Society and its Enemies vol 2]
[Maggee: on the Philosphy of Karl Popper] | [Popper: Poverty of Historicism]
[Beard: An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States]

[Back to Lachlan's Homepage] | [What's New at Lachlan's Homepage] | [Historial things, Literature and Poetry] | [Literature]

(This Webpage Page in No Frames Mode)

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