Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Fluent Society?

A few weeks ago, browsing one of my favorite used book stores, I happened upon an apparent first edition of John Kenneth Galbraith's The Affluent Society. Having never read it when it was published in 1958 (my excuse: I was 10 years old), and having hardly experienced affluence at any time in my life, I decided to find out what the good Professor Galbraith, truly a towering intellect (6' 8", say the biographies), had to say on the subject. I am about halfway through this fascinating book— fascinating if you like economics— and I am beginning to see why it is one of the also estimable Prof. Robert Reich's favorite books. Not that it's easy reading, oh no... but it is not aimed first and foremost at professional economists, and it is not in the least mathematically challenging. You might give it a look if you can find it.

Since the Deepwater Horizon event, I have wondered if instead we needed a book titled The Effluent Society, but it turns out the British political cartoonist Norman Thelwell beat me to that thought by more than 40 years. Have all the great ideas already been thought of?

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