Chosen as one of the best books of 2005 by both The New York Times and The Globe and Mail, Richard Parker’s biography of John Kenneth Galbraith has garnered international acclaim for its highly readable portrayal of its extraordinary subject: a Canadian-born Harvard economist who holds a central place in the development of liberal politics, Keynesian economics and the modern world. Tracing his rise from an Ontario farm to the epicentre of American public life, this is the engaging story of an iconic thinker whose provocative ideas on deregulated markets, corporate greed and military spending are more relevant than ever.
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John Kenneth Galbraith has led an extraordinary life. The world's most famous living economist started teaching at Harvard when he was just 25 years old and has sold seven million copies of his four dozen books. One reviewer said Galbraith wrote "history that reads like a poem." During World War II, at age 32, he was named "tsar" of consumer-price controls in the United States, and he later advised three American presidents and served as ambassador to India. Now in his 90s, Galbraith is still active and has received 50 honorary degrees. All this was accomplished by a Canadian born in a tiny Ontario farming hamlet, whose major at an obscure agricultural college wasn't even economics but animal husbandry. Such an irony is typical of Galbraith's renowned iconoclasm, writes Richard Parker in his 820-page biography John Kenneth Galbraith.
Parker shows how Galbraith's irreverent views were shaped by the Depression, which helped turn him into a passionate advocate of Keynesian economics, the philosophy that inspired FDR's New Deal. Galbraith later became one of the architects of the expansion of federal social services after World War II. Because of his influence in successive administrations, readers get a fascinating fly-on-the-wall picture of debates and intrigue inside the White House during many of the major crises of the Cold War. Galbraith frequently played crucial behind-the-scenes roles that went beyond the duties of an economist: advising President Kennedy during the Cuba missile crisis, helping Lyndon Johnson write his first speech after Kennedy was assassinated, and opposing the Vietnam War, which became his most passionate cause. He later criticized the dismantling of government programs under Ronald Reagan and seemed to love clashing with conservative economists. Parker managed to sift through a mountain of material from Galbraith's long and lively years to distill an engaging narrative that, like Galbraith's own books, is easily accessible to non-economists. --Alex RoslinAbout the Author:
RICHARD PARKER, Senior Fellow of the Shorenstein Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, is an Oxford-trained economist who writes extensively on economics and public policy. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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