Quotation of the Day

Politics also reflects the new division. In the United States suspicion or resentment is no longer directed to the capitalists or the merely rich. It is the intellectuals–the effete snobs–who are eyed with misgiving and alarm. This should surprise no one. Nor should it be a matter for surprise when semiliterate millionaires turn up leading or financing the ignorant in struggle against the intellectually privileged and content. This reflects the relevant class distinction in our time.

This is from the 1971 edition of The New Industrial State, by John Kenneth Galbraith. He gets many things spectacularly wrong, of course. But offers insights into the role of technical expertise and Weberian organization within a large firm that are too little appreciated by today’s economists. He deserves to be re-read.

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5 Responses to Quotation of the Day

  1. Slocum says:

    “This reflects the relevant class distinction in our time.”

    And probably all times. He’s certainly wrong that it was any kind of new division. The rivalry and mutual disdain between intellectuals and merchants has been around hundreds and maybe thousands of years.

  2. j says:

    “semiliterate millionaires” – wrong! Only a British gay snob imagines this category to exist. Millionaires are, generally, literate and cultured and maintain museums and opera houses.

    • djf says:

      John Kenneth Galbraith was not British and, as far as I know, was not gay. He may have become a snob, but he was of humble origins, from a farm in Canada.

      Anyway, some rich people are “literate and cultured,” some aren’t.

  3. Matthew Young says:

    In my neighborhood, doing business with the county government is fraught with inefficiency, we know that. When me and my neighbors vote for the national programs, much to our horror, they end up being managed by our county government, we didn’t know that, we thought the elitists were a bit smarter.

    Why didn’t the elitists figure out that government was oddly quantized from the center down? Elitists never noticed the juxtaposition of a national government and its agents at the county level? Never figured out the odd disparity in state size, never. Never noticed the huge unemployment swing in California that defined the great recession? Never noticed that recessions tend to be synchronous with government regime changes?

    They are elitists only in the sense that government mandates simple accounting that they can work simple equations.

  4. Procrustes says:

    Arnold, you are a more noble and tolerant man than me. You’ve done the hard work of re-reading JKG, so thanks for that. But I am trembling at the thought of revisiting the Affluent Society guy- I’m having flashbacks involving the overwhelming smugness emanating from his supporters back in my university days (the late 1970s).

    Now that I have that off my chest and, looking back over my career (mostly spent in central agencies in Australian and the UK governments), I can’t help thinking that von Mises and Hayek had it more right than wrong. The elites – even if they mean well – don’t even know what they don’t know.

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