A no doubt, the man who died last Saturday at the respectable age of quatre-vingt-dix-sept years in a hospital in Cambridge, in the United States, was one of the leading economists of the 20th century. But what was his greatness Here begins the debate. "A great pattern is a pattern that measure more than 1.90 metre", joking Michel Bon, former CEO of France Telecom. Under the square, John Kenneth Galbraith was immense: he was 2.03 metres. It has also long been the best-known economist in the United States. Some of his books were of bestsellers. The INSPIRER of the Democratic Party has forged expressions passed into the public domain, such as the famous "era of opulence" (which he had was in fact blown by his wife) or the "conventional wisdom" ("conventional wisdom", or more simply "wisdom") he fought fiercely. And yet, it disappears without leaving school or even followers. The Nobel jury, often giving his prize of Economics of protectionism, even as Ronald Coase in 1991 or William Vickrey octogenarians in 1996, did never distinguished the beautiful nonagÃ©naire that was Galbraith. A such disdain merit explanation.
Let's start with the beginning. John Kenneth Galbraith was born in 1908 on a farm in Ontario, in the Canada. His father was not a simple farmer. Municipal elected, teacher, he had created a small mutual agricultural and organized the installation of the local telephone network. The father bequeathed the son his tenacity, his sense of social and strong beliefs of left. John studied at the agricultural college. But the crisis of 1929 eclipsing the agriculture as the industry. The student wants to understand why prices go down. It goes to the University of Toronto, then to Berkeley, in the United States. He studied...
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In this America in the 1930s who seeks out of the depression, the young economist is passionate about the ideas of John Maynard Keynes, who draws the theoretical framework of policy stimulus undertaken by President Roosevelt. His other master suggests is less well known: it is of Thorstein Veblen. In his best-known book, "Theory of the leisure class", this heretic condemned in 1899... the consumer society. Galbraith began teaching at Harvard. He will join the Roosevelt administration in 1940, where he became responsible for the control of prices. It will then refine his pen to the magazine "Fortune" in 1943, driver including the investigation of the strategy of bombing carried out by the United States and returns to Harvard, where he spent most of his time while continuing to advise democratic leaders, as John Kennedy offering him in thanks the position of Ambassador of the United States in India, and Bill Clinton who invest into in 2000 of the Medal of freedom. His research activity will therefore punctuated by books in the clear connection, elegant writing and controversial content. He knows success except among fellow, followers of a mathematical formalization that it hardly tastes.
In the Keynesian tradition, John Kenneth Galbraith argues for the intervention of the State. In "The era of opulence" (1958), he not only analyze the springs of the growth in harshly criticizing the advertising and marketing, accused of depriving the consumer of his freedom of choice and supply unnecessary expenditure. He opposed "the opulent private" to "public destitution", sees in rutted roads, dilapidated schools, a public service to surrender and an environment deteriorating. He claims a vigorous, with increased means public action, including for poverty alleviation. Even if it means sacrificing the military expenditure Economist oppose later the war of the Viet Nam, which will take him to break with the Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, which he had yet written the famous speech on the "Great Society".
If Galbraith won his greatest success with his diagnosis on the opulent society, his major work is the analysis of capitalism managerial, began in the 1950s and developed in "The new industrial State". In large firms, contractors and shareholders disappear behind the managers selected by the Board of Directors as "themselves, such as Narcissus, chose their own image." This "technostructure" holds the levers of power. Large companies build against the market. Internally, they are planning production and innovation. Externally, they attempt to control the market, notably through marketing. Hence the need for balances: associations of consumers, trade unions, the competition authorities.
The Harvard professor has described admirably capitalism flourishes of the 1950-1970s. To achieve this, needed skills, a retreat, an open mind beyond that of an ordinary Economist. His peers, who gave him a year the Presidency of the American Economic Association, sometimes said that he was first a sociologist. But the step which he so described is now part of history. Capitalism became financial, which. In his latest book, "The lies of the economy" (Grasset, 2004), Galbraith was evidence that he had difficulty understanding this new phase. Ultimately, it will remain without intellectual offspring. Some of our intuitions hold, half a century later, common sense. Others are now part of history. America remains always also insensitive to inequality. And the economic science knows more produce such as general practitioners.