Monday, May 01, 2006


John Kenneth Galbraith has passed the New York Times informed us. At six foot eight inches he was always a commanding figure. He was also a socialist economist very wrongheaded on many, many points. But in service to his country, both during the Second World War, where he headed off inflation with price controls, (which also initially help national solidarity whatever their baneful economic effects) and during the India/China "glacier war" of the early 60's he proved himself a patriot and more than a wooly-headed academic.

The reason I post his obit has nothing to do with the Anglosphere (although he was originally Canadian) or World War II (where as I said he did yeoman's service) but because I remember meeting him so vividly.

He was a friend of the (far more conservative and classical economist) Professor Sid Wertimer of Hamilton College. For those who do not know him, Prof. Wertimer was short and stout and always reminded me physically a bit of Disney's Owl in Winnie-the-Pooh. Galbraith came to speak on economics and as there was more than a foot, and I'd bet a foot and a half between them the introductions and adjusting of podiums and mikes was amusing. Galbraith was famously a friend of William F. Buckley and his speaking voice was, like Buckley's, a bit diffident and full of cirmolocutions, but also wit and amusement. His speech was, of course, highly anti-Reagan but he took questions and was quite kind and responsive one-on-one.

I see him in my minds-eye looming over Sid Wertimer as they conferred on, I don't know, some disagreement on Pareto-optimization, and hope they are conferring now in the House of many mansions.

Update 5/4/06-On an interesting note George Will critiques Galbraith today and posits that one wants short economists which would please Prof. Wertimer. He states:

"Small wonder that a conservative wit has surmised that the wisdom of economists varies inversely with their heights. Milton Friedman, 93, is 5 feet tall."

No comments: