Reading: Galbraith’s Journey Through Economic Time

John Kenneth Galbraith’s A Journey Through Economic Time (1994) is, like all his works, fascinating reading. One cannot read a single page without pausing to think and reflect. It is slow going consequently.

For instance, take this observation. He notes that for centuries political authority was the result of landed proprietorship by being dominant in the military and government. But later it changed so that political authority resulted in landed aristocracy. Capitalism, though, has made yet another change.

It was to be one of the modern and more welcome triumphs of capitalist attitude and achievement to diminish this acquisitive need for more land. In the highly prosperous city-states of Singapore and Hong Kong, land has been shown to be wholly irrelevant. And in the larger world it came eventually to be realized that colonial territory was only marginally relevant to economic progress, if it was relevant at all. The dissidence and revolt of the colonial peoples and a more civilized attitude by the colonial powers are often credited with bringing the colonial era to end. More attention might well be accorded to the rather simple but persuasive fact that colonies had become no longer economically worthwhile. Territory was not the thing.
(Pg 13)

The next quote rings too awfully true to me in the context of India and its leadership, both past and present.

Ignorance, stupidity, in great affairs of state is not something that is commonly cited. A certain political and historical correctness requires us to assign some measure of purpose, of rationality even where, all too obviously, it does not exist. Nonetheless one cannot look with detachment on the Great War (and also its aftermath) without thought as to the mental insularity and defectiveness of those involved and responsible.

I note in passing that Galbraith was the US ambassador to India when Nehru was the Prime Minister.

{See also Happy Birthday JK.}