Saturday, July 09, 2005

Are We Preparing to Repeat
the Mistakes of the Past?

There is something wonderful in seeing a wrong-headed majority assailed by truth.
John Kenneth Galbraith, economist

One of the books I am reading “John Kenneth Galbraith His life, His Politics, His Economics,” and in one of the early chapters, the author describes 1908:

…1908 was in the midst of the Progressive Era, when an alarmed middle class sought to stem the sufferings the new capitalist order imposed on its workers….

Theodore Roosevelt, the Rough Rider whose sharp attacks on “malefactors of great wealth” and “trust-busting” assaults on corporate power made him a new kind of Republican, was President. Muckraking journalist like Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, and Ray Stannard Baker were at the apogee of their influence, detailing how the power of Rockefeller, Morgan, Carnegie, and other titans threatened American’s ideas of freedom and equality of opportunity.

What piqued my interest in Galbraith was the book review in the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs. Here are some items from the article I underlined:

  • What were the consequences of the transition from a nation of small farms and workshops to one of large factories and superstores?
  • In a world of passive shareholders, autonomous managers and engineers, and firm decisions that emerge out of internal bureaucratic contests, just what are the objectives that drive big firms?
  • How does competition work when its principal dimensions are quality and marketing rather than price?
  • Vietnam was a strategically unimportant quagmire where the United States would do more harm than good.
  • The businessman’s capacity for self-delusion is nearly infinite.

I am sure I will have more to share as I progress through this book.

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