I admire John Kenneth Galbraith for the clarity of his thinking and the quality of his prose. The greatest compliment I have ever received was when Irma Adelman told me that I reminded her of John Kenneth because like him I was an old world liberal.
Here, for the record, is a quote from JKG’s book Economics, Peace and Laughter:
In a well-to-do community we cannot be much concerned over what people are persuaded to buy. The marginal utility of money is low; were it otherwise, people would not be open to persuasion. The more serious conflict is with truth and aesthetics. There is little that can be said about most economic goods. A toothbrush does little but clean teeth. Alcohol is important mostly for making people more or less drunk. An automobile can take one reliably to a destination and back, and its further features are of small consequence as compared with the traffic encountered. There being so little to be said, much must be invented. Social distinction must be associated with a house or a swimming pool, sexual fulfillment with a particular shape of automobile, social acceptance with a hair oil or mouthwash, improved health with a hand lotion or, at best, a purgative. We live surrounded by a systematic appeal to a dream world which all mature, scientific reality would reject. We, quite literally, advertise our commitment to immaturity, mendacity and profound gullibility. It is the hallmark of the culture. And it is justified as being economically indispensable.