Galbraith Pokes Fun at '80S' Reaganomics

By David R. Francis. David R. Francis is the Monitor's Economy page editor. | The Christian Science Monitor, August 18, 1993 | Go to article overview

Galbraith Pokes Fun at '80S' Reaganomics


David R. Francis. David R. Francis is the Monitor's Economy page editor., The Christian Science Monitor


JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH, a liberal, professor of economics emeritus at Harvard University, has written more than two dozen books, several quite influential in their day. This book probably won't rank in importance with "American Capitalism: The Concept of Countervailing Power," or "The Affluent Society," or "The New Industrial State." Yet, as always with Galbraith, this book is clear, well-written, entertaining, and thoughtful. The author is more of a political-economic philosopher than a modern economist who uses mathematical analysis of the statistics to back up his theories and theses.

In one sense, "A Short History of Financial Euphoria" is a poke at Reaganomics. He equates the merger mania of the 1980s, the related boom in junk bonds, the savings and loan scandal, the real estate bust, and the stock market crash of 1987 with the great speculative episodes of the last three centuries. These include Holland's "Tulipomania" of 1636-37, Britain's South Sea Bubble, the 18th-century fascination with the joint-stock company, and the 1929 stock market crash that began the Great Depression.

Galbraith also finds a common theme and lesson. "Individuals and institutions are captured by the wondrous satisfaction from accruing wealth," he writes. "The associated illusion of insight is protected, in turn, by the oft-noted public impression that intelligence, one's own and that of others, marches in close step with the possession of money. Out of that belief, thus instilled, then comes action - the bidding up of values, whether in land, securities, or, as recently, art. …

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