John Kenneth Galbraith, author, scholar, diplomat and presidential adviser, died last night in Cambridge, Mass. He was 97. Galbraith was a “preeminent symbol and source of liberal political thought.”
The NY Times called Galbraith “an unapologetically liberal member of the political and academic establishment.”
Mr. Galbraith was admired, envied and sometimes scorned for his eloquence and wit and his ability to make complicated, dry issues understandable to any educated reader. He enjoyed his international reputation as a slayer of sacred cows and a maverick among economists whose pronouncements became known as “classic Galbraithian heresies.”
Senator Ted Kennedy said of Galbraith today, “Ken was a brilliant economist with a profound commitment to social justice. His powerful ideas helped shaped the nation’s policy and politics for over half a century. I know how much President Kennedy admired his genius, valued his friendship, and loved his extraordinary wit, and so did I. Our affluent society is a fairer and more just society today because of Ken, and no one who knew him will ever forget him.”
An economist and a Harvard professor, Galbraith was an adviser to Democratic presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Bill Clinton. He served John F. Kennedy as ambassador to India.
Galbraith, the WaPo notes, “supplied the intellectual underpinning and moral support for Democratic efforts to extend the benefits of American prosperity throughout the population.”
One of his most influential and frequently quoted books was “The Affluent Society,” which was published in 1958. Critical of what it took as complacency amid wealth, it was often viewed as an inspiration for Democratic social programs of the 1960s.
Other works included “American Capitalism” (1952), “The New Industrial State” (1967) and “Economics and the Public Purpose” (1973).
Among the most prolific of all American authors, he contributed widely to newspapers and periodicals and wrote more than three dozen books, works of fiction and satire among them.
An unabashed liberal, he was chairman of Americans for Democratic Action during the 1960s.