Friday, May 16, 2014


John Kenneth Galbraith was an economist, first and foremost. But, he had a fine way with words. His great prose was part of the reason that he so impressed both, John F. Kennedy and, equally importantly, Mrs Jacqueline Kennedy.

One of Galbraith's seminal books that I had the pleasure of reading was The Affluent Society (1958). In it he argued that the United States' wealth accumulation in the private sector was not commensurate with public spending that would benefit the wider public and citizenry. In a capitalistic milieu Galbraith was not quite a Socialist, but most certainly, a Keynesian economist with a social conscience.

Galbraith was appointed the U.S. Ambassador to India during the Kennedy Administration.

Among the famous phrases he coined was the phrase conventional wisdom, which he first used in The Affluent Society

And, in the context of what we witness today in Malaysia, where nation building appears to have taken a backseat to guileless and clueless leadership, we need to take some heed of a piece of wisdom offered by Galbraith, unconventional as it may be in the Malaysian political scene of today-

All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.


hishamh said...

Well said!

walla said...

I am afraid the message is lost on those whose intelligence and maturity quotients are only as high as room temperatures in Siberia.

Their quotients are more of the types WIIFM and SYA.