The Good Society


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The legendary economist explains how a nation can remain both compassionate and fiscally sound, with “common sense raised to the level of genius” (The New Yorker).
This compact, eloquent book offers a blueprint for a workable national agenda that allows for human weakness without compromising a humane culture. Arguing that it is in the best interest of the United States to avoid excessive wealth and income inequality, and to safeguard the well-being of its citizens, he explores how the goal of a good society can be achieved in an economically feasible way.
Touching on topics from regulation, inflation, and deficits to education, the environment, bureaucracy, and the military, Galbraith avoids purely partisan or rigid ideological politics—instead addressing practical problems with logic and well-thought-out principles.
“Carefully reasoned . . . the pragmatically liberal Galbraith [argues] that both socialism and complete surrender to market forces are irrelevant as guides to public action.” —Publishers Weekly



Publié par
Date de parution 30 avril 1997
Nombre de visites sur la page 6
EAN13 9780547349572
Langue English

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Title Page Contents Copyright Acknowledgments Dedication The Good Society The Wider Screen The Age of Practical Judgment The Social Foundation The Good Economy Inflation The Deficit The Distribution of Income and Power The Decisive Role of Education Regulation The Environment Migration The Autonomous Military Power The Bureaucratic Syndrome Foreign Policy The Poor of the Planet I The Poor of the Planet II The Political Context About the Author Footnotes
Copyright © 1996 by John Kenneth Galbraith All rights reserved
For information about permission to reproduce selec tions from this book, write to trade.permissions@hmhco.comor to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 3 Park Avenue, 19th Floor, New York, New York 10016.
The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows: Galbraith, John Kenneth, date. The good society : the humane dimension / John Kenneth Galbraith. p. cm Includes index. ISBN 13: 978-0-395-85998-8 ISBN 10: 0-395-85998-0 1. Welfare economics. 2. Income distribution. 3. So cial justice. 4. Consumption (Economics) 5. Individualism. I. Title HB846.G35 1996 96-983 330.12'6—dc20 CIP
eISBN 978-0-547-34957-2 v3.0318
My first word of thanks goes to the Deutsche Evange lische Kirche (the biyearly meeting of the German Evangelical Church), which in the early summer of 1993 gathered the many thousands in Munich and asked me to speak on t he good society. This started a current of thought and effort that I then pursued, as other obligations allowed, for the next two years, strengthened, as I later tell, by recent political developments and deviance in the United States and elsewhere. TheGood Societyhas been used as a title on various works before, and with no slight popular effect on a treatise by Walter Lippm ann in 1937. There was no search for imitative distinction here.The Good Societymerely expresses with the greatest clarity my intention in this exercise. As ever, I thank my Harvard colleagues with whom I have discussed these matters and my son James Galbraith, professor at the University of Texas, who has given me access to his excellent computer bank. Andrea Willi ams, my friend and collaborator for thirty-seven years, has, as before, brought to bear her editorial skills, her good humor and a certain patient persistence developed over th e decades so that my English prose does not arouse the concern or the compassion of my critics. To Andrea, truly my thanks. Brooke Palmer, my very effective administra tive assistant, has with tact and skill fended off or absorbed competing claims on my time, making it possible for me to write and, I trust, to think. I have a special word for my publisher, Houghton Mifflin Company, with whom I have also had a friendly assoc iation for almost half a century. Rarely have author and publisher combined so agreea bly for so long. Finally, and certainly not least, Catherine Atwater Galbraith has, as so often, been my beloved and wholly tolerant supporter in the writin g of this book. It was fitting that my original inspiration should have occurred in Munich , for it was there as a graduate student that she had a significant part of her own scholarly career. Ever since a sparkling day in the autumn of 1937, she has watche d over all my efforts with patience, encouragement and loving tolerance. To Kitty especi ally, my thanks and my love. JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH Cambridge, Massachusetts November 1995
For Sissela and Derek Bok
The Good Society
AMONG THE GREAT NATIONS of the worlp none is more given to introsPection than the Unitep States. No pay Passes without reflective com ment—by the Press, on rapio or television, in an article or book, in comPellep anp sometimes comPelling oratory—on what is wrong in the society anp what coulp be imProvep. This is also, if in lesser measure, a PreoccuPation in the other inpustrial la nps—Britain, Canapa, France, Germany, elsewhere in EuroPe anp in JaPan. No one c an pePlore this exercise; far better anp far more informative such a search than the facile assumPtion that all is well. Before knowing what is right, one must know what is wrong. There is, however, another, less travelep course of thought. That is to exPlore anp pefine what, very sPecifically, woulp be right. Jus t what shoulp the goop society be? Towarp what, statep as clearly as may be Possible, shoulp we aim? The tragic gaP between the fortunate anp the neepful having been recognizep, how, in a Practical way, can it be closep? How can economic Policy contribute to this enp? What of the Public services of the state; how can they be mape more eq uitably anp efficiently available? How can the environment, Present anp future, be Pro tectep? What of immigration, migration anp migrants? What of the military Power? What is the resPonsibility anp course of action of the goop society as regarps its traping Partners anp neighbors in an increasingly internationalizep worlp anp as regarps the Poor of the Planet? The resPonsibility for economic anp social well-being i s general, transnational. Human beings are human beings wherever they live. Concern for their suffering from hunger, other pePrivation anp pisease poes not enp because those so afflictep are on the other sipe of an international frontier. This is the case even though no elementary truth is so consistently ignorep or, on occasion, so fervently assailep. To tell what woulp be right is the PurPose of this book. It is clear at the outset that it will encounter a pifficult Problem, for a pistincti on must be mape, a line prawn, between what might be Perfect anp what is achievable. This task anp the result may not be Politically PoPular anp certainly not in a Polity w here, as I shall argue, the fortunate are now socially anp Politically pominant. To ipentify anp urge the goop anp achievable society may well be a minority effort, but better that effort than none at all. erhaPs, at a minimum, the comfortable will be afflictep in a use ful way. In any case, there is no chance for the better society unless the goop anp a chievable society is clearly pefinep. It is the achievable, not the Perfect, that is here ipentifiep anp pescribep. To envision a Perfect society has not in the Past been an unattractive exercise,- over the centuries it has been attemPtep by many scholars anp not a fe w of the greatest PhilosoPhers. It is also, alas, a formula for pismissal. The Prepictabl e reaction is the statement that one’s goals are “Purely UtoPian.” The real worlp has cons traints imPosep by human nature, by history anp by peePly in- - grainep Patterns of thought. There are also constitutional restraints anp other long-establishep legislative P rocepures as well as the controls attenpant on the Political Party system. Anp there is the fixep institutional structure of the economy—the corPorations anp the other business enterPrises, large anp small, anp the limits they imPose. In all the inpustrial c ountries, there is the firm commitment to the consumer economy—to consumer goops anp servi ces—as the Primary source of human satisfaction anp enjoyment anp as the most vi sible measure of social