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Custom John Kenneth Galbraith essay paper sample

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John Kenneth Galbraith is one among few personalities of the world whose lives are worth studying. His life as a student and how he struggles to acquire formal education from a very humble background is both thrilling and inspirational. He also leads an active life that combines both professional and political activities. Professionally, Kenneth transits through various job posts beginning from a research assistant through various managerial positions and university professor among others. He also engages in political activities taking positions such as campaign strategist, president’s speech writer among other. This double faced life of Kenneth makes it difficult for various scholars to understand his ideas in economics.

Kenneth’s economic theories seem to be political goods packaged in economics to attract sympathizers. However, an objective study of the theories shows that Kenneth made a great contribution in the field of economics. His two titles of politician and professional economist enables him to informally research on the relationship between power and economics. He then presents his results which disapprove the believe of most of his fellow economists. The professional weapon for battling in this war of ideological difference is through writing. Kenneth then puts his writing skills to task end engages his counterparts in an ideological battle before the public. This led to the various books that have been written by John Kenneth Galbraith. In most cases, Kenneth has emerged successful since he has been able to gather more supporters to his economic views than opposers. Consequently Kenneth’s economic views have been adopted and regarded as important contributions in the field of economics.  This is confirmed when he is appointed to lead certain commissions where he could put his economic thoughts into practical implementation.

Summary of the Life of John Kenneth Galbraith

Kenneth was born in 1908, in a small town on the shores of Lake Erie called Iona station. This town is found in Ontario province of Canada. Iona Station was dominated by settlement of Scottish immigrants at the time of Kenneth’s birth. Kenneth was forced to taste the bitterness of being a partial orphan at the age of 14 years after the death of his mother. He had to do farm work which frequently interrupted his schooling. Kenneth’s father, Archie had more than one job at the same time. The father was a head of a cooperative insurance company that he had helped form and at the same time was a teacher. He was also active in the countries politics and held a senior position in the county branch of the Canadian Liberal party. This kind of life really inspired Kenneth. His pre-college schooling is not well defined because of many interruptions.

In 1926 John Kenneth Galbraith joined Ontario Agricultural College which is now the University of Guelph. He intended to study agricultural economics at the college. However, great depression started which made Kenneth to switch from the field of Agricultural economics to the farm economics.  He found it senseless to improve the quality of the animals if they were not being sold at higher prices. He felt that as a farm economist, he would acquire price setting skills that would be direly needed in this time of depression.  Kenneth was therefore sure that the new field of study would easily earn him a job as compared to the former field of study.

Meanwhile, when Kenneth was a student at Ontario Agricultural College he wrote a weekly Column describing new and useful agricultural practices for his home town. This enabled him to get money for up keep in the college. Even after dealing with the financial challenge at school, Kenneth still had other challenges. For instance, he was attacked by tuberculosis at some point which made him to go up to 5th year in the college.

After completing his degree at Ontario College, Kenneth immediately got a job as a research assistant. He was offered a stipend of $60 in this job. This amount was later increased to $ 70. Kenneth appreciates how he learnt a lot of economics during this period. He particularly cites how he enjoyed meeting various authorities in the field of economics. In addition he found time to write his PhD thesis on the expenditures of California counties.

In 1933, Kenneth joined Harvard University at the position of an instructor. At Harvard, Kenneth started engaging in policy issues and began making important political connections. Towards the end of the end of the year in which he joined Harvard, Brookings Institution put him in charge of the study of Farm Credit Administration. In1934 got into work for the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. This job seems to have influenced his life a great deal. It is during this time that he learnt the importance of power in economics. This new revelation reoriented his thinking and gave him a new view towards existing economic theories. In fact this experience became the foundation on which most of his economic theories were built.

In 1936, Kenneth advanced in his involvement in politics. He volunteered to help in strategizing in the campaigns for Roosevelt reelection. It is also in the same year that he applied for American citizenship. The application to acquire American followed suggestions by democrat politicians. In 1937 he acquired the citizenship and married Catherine Merriam Atwater.  After the marriage the couple travelled to England for some time.

Kenneth’s economic theories seem to be political goods packaged in economics to attract sympathizers. However, an objective study of the theories shows that Kenneth made a great contribution in the field of economics. His two titles of politician and professional economist enables him to informally research on the relationship between power and economics. He then presents his results which disapprove the believe of most of his fellow economists. The professional weapon for battling in this war of ideological difference is through writing. Kenneth then puts his writing skills to task end engages his counterparts in an ideological battle before the public. This led to the various books that have been written by John Kenneth Galbraith. In most cases, Kenneth has emerged successful since he has been able to gather more supporters to his economic views than opposers. Consequently Kenneth’s economic views have been adopted and regarded as important contributions in the field of economics.  This is confirmed when he is appointed to lead certain commissions where he could put his economic thoughts into practical implementation.

Kenneth and his wife returned to Harvard in 1938 and Kenneth was asked to head a commission that was formed to review the public works program of the New Deal. As a result of the position, he made several trips to Washington and entered deeper into politics of America. In 1939, Kenneth met Franklin Roosevelt face to face for the first time. In 1940, Kenneth was recruited b Laughlin Currie to serve as the resident economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation. He was later asked to be part of the white house speech writing team for the 1940 election.

One major event in Kenneth’s is during the Second World War. Kenneth was in the background but played a very important role in the war. He was requested by Currie to help in economic stabilization and mobilization of resources for the war. This role was very instrumental for the success of the war. Kenneth’s success in this position earned him several other job positions in the government. Among other important job positions include when he served as the US ambassador to India during the time of John F. Kennedy. Professionally, Kenneth transits through various job posts beginning from a research assistant through various managerial positions and university professor among others. He also engages in political activities taking positions such as campaign strategist, president’s speech writer among other. This double faced life of Kenneth makes it difficult for various scholars to understand his ideas in economics.

Contributions of John Kenneth Galbraith in Economics

John Kenneth Galbraith has made a great contribution in the discipline of contemporary economics. His views appear more realistic and convincing than the neoclassical economic theories. He points out the shortcomings of the neoclassical theories and prescribes a remedy for their failures. The manner in which Kenneth combines economics and power is working better than when economic forces are left to control the economy as propagated by the neoclassical theories. Professionally, Kenneth transits through various job posts beginning from a research assistant through various managerial positions and university professor among others. He also engages in political activities taking positions such as campaign strategist, president’s speech writer among other. This double faced life of Kenneth makes it difficult for various scholars to understand his ideas in economics.

Consequently Kenneth’s economic views have been adopted and regarded as important contributions in the field of economics.  This is confirmed when he is appointed to lead certain commissions where he could put his economic thoughts into practical implementation. Kenneth and his wife returned to Harvard in 1938 and Kenneth was asked to head a commission that was formed to review the public works program of the New Deal. As a result of the position, he made several trips to Washington and entered deeper into politics of America. In 1939, Kenneth met Franklin Roosevelt face to face for the first time. In 1940, Kenneth was recruited b Laughlin Currie to serve as the resident economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation. He was later asked to be part of the white house speech writing team for the 1940 election.

Kenneth erects for himself a platform for making his contributions by first refuting what most economists have believed over the years- the neoclassical "conventional wisdom". This is a set of ideas that is familiar to all people and widely accepted, but has become irrelevant. His evolutionary approach searches through changing conditions and shows the need to change our ideas just as situations also change. In one of his statements, Kenneth said, "Ideas are inherently conservative. They yield not to the attack of other ideas but to the massive onslaughts of circumstances with which they cannot contend" (Galbraith, 1952). To avoid resentment from other economists, Kenneth explains that this statement is meant to attack the neoclassical ideas and not the people who originally expounded on them.

Kenneth wonders how the neoclassical ideas have been able to survive for all that time that they have existed. He believes that the shortcomings of economics is not because of total error but is because necessary corrections were not made at the right time. He maintains that the neoclassical ideas are traditional and best suited for a description of a society that existed in the past. In addition he says the neoclassical ideas were used because there was nothing to be used in their place anyway. In a quote when trying to explain this Kenneth says “students arrive; something must be taught; the neoclassical model exists. It lends itself to endless theoretical refinement. With increasing complexity goes an impression of increasing precision and accuracy. And with resolved perplexity goes an impression of understanding."

Within Kenneth's overall theory of modern capitalism one can find several specific theories that challenge orthodox economics. Two theories of particular importance are his notion of the "dependence effect" and his theory of the behavior of the firm.  

According to Kenneth, modern capitalism is dominated by large firms and characterized by an abundance of artificially manufactured wants that are the product of corporate planning and intermittent advertisements which are appealing to the senses of the consumer. This leads to creation of a society that loves wanton consumption. Such kind of society is called an affluent society.

Kenneth’s economic theories seem to be political goods packaged in economics to attract sympathizers. However, an objective study of the theories shows that Kenneth made a great contribution in the field of economics. His two titles of politician and professional economist enables him to informally research on the relationship between power and economics. He then presents his results which disapprove the believe of most of his fellow economists. The professional weapon for battling in this war of ideological difference is through writing. Kenneth then puts his writing skills to task end engages his counterparts in an ideological battle before the public. This led to the various books that have been written by John Kenneth Galbraith. In most cases, Kenneth has emerged successful since he has been able to gather more supporters to his economic views than opposers. Consequently Kenneth’s economic views have been adopted and regarded as important contributions in the field of economics.  This is confirmed when he is appointed to lead certain commissions where he could put his economic thoughts into practical implementation.

As a society becomes increasingly affluent, the enterprises take advantage of the situation to continuously arouse wants in the consumer and then satisfy them. Such wants do not originate from the consumers but instead arise from the output of the firms. In technical terms, it is assumed that welfare is greater at an all-round higher level of production than at a lower one. This is not true according to Kenneth. It may be the same. The higher level of production has, merely, a higher level of want creation necessitating a higher level of want satisfaction. This dependence of satisfaction on the level of production is what Kenneth calls dependence effect.

Speaking, straight, it is not consumers who are sovereign in the modern industrial system, but instead the large firms that produce and market goods and services. In Kenneth's "revised sequence," producers decide what shall be produced and then mold consumers' tastes so that they buy these products. Orthodox economics holds it wrongly that consumers decide on what they buy and what is produced to the market. Kenneth says that, to say that consumers maximize their utility begs the important question of how consumers go about formulating those wants in the first place. And, if wants must be created through advertising, then the principle of consumer sovereignty as held by neoclassical theories makes little sense. One cannot defend production as satisfying wants if that production creates the wants.

Galbraith's theory of consumer demand has an important policy implication: there will be an under allocation of resources to public goods. Galbraith called this circumstance "social imbalance." The creation of artificial wants through advertising and the propensity for emulation shifts resources toward private goods and away from public goods that have greater inherent value. New automobiles are seen as being more important than new roads; vacuum cleaners in the home are desired more than street cleaners. Alcohol, comic books, and mouthwashes take on a greater aggregate importance than schools, courts, and municipal swimming pools. One way to remedy this imbalance, said Galbraith, would be to impose sales taxes on consumer goods and services, using the proceeds to increase the availability of public sector goods and services.

In Kenneth's "revised sequence," producers decide what shall be produced and then mold consumers' tastes so that they buy these products. Orthodox economics holds it wrongly that consumers decide on what they buy and what is produced to the market. Kenneth says that, to say that consumers maximize their utility begs the important question of how consumers go about formulating those wants in the first place. And, if wants must be created through advertising, then the principle of consumer sovereignty as held by neoclassical theories makes little sense. One cannot defend production as satisfying wants if that production creates the wants. Galbraith's theory of consumer demand has an important policy implication: there will be an under allocation of resources to public goods. Galbraith called this circumstance "social imbalance." Orthodox economics holds it wrongly that consumers decide on what they buy and what is produced to the market. Kenneth says that, to say that consumers maximize their utility begs the important question of how consumers go about formulating those wants in the first place. And, if wants must be created through advertising, then the principle of consumer sovereignty as held by neoclassical theories makes little sense. One cannot defend production as satisfying wants if that production creates the wants.

Close analysis of current economic systems proves that John Kenneth Galbraith is right when he refutes that the neoclassical economic theories as erroneous ideas whose time of correction has passed. The current shake of strongest world economies is a testimony that market forces have limitations in determining the course of an economy. Therefore, Kenneth’s idea of combining power and economics in order control capitalism is realistic and receptable. If this is not done, then the rich will continue growing notoriously rich and the poor growing poorer. The big firms will also use their power of influence to influence consumers to buy even what they don’t really need. The big firms therefore grow stronger as the weak ones grow weaker and eventually die. This eventual death of weak firms finally leads to monopoly that the capitalists claim to be running away from.

It is further worth noticing that the economies that have been severely affected in the 21st century economic meltdown are the capitalistic economies such USA among others. This shows that capitalism divorced from power is not as perfect as perfect as portrayed by the propagators of capitalism. We can also deduce from Kenneth’s argument that it was Kenneth’s ideas of price control and taxation that enabled the US to sustain the Second World War emerge the strongest economy after the war. Kenneth’ main idea that so far has proved right is that” power and economics cannot be divorced. Therefore political control is sometimes necessary in a capitalistic economy.

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