John Kenneth Galbraith

“Poverty can be made to disappear. It won’t be accomplished simply by stepping up the growth rate any more than it will be accomplished by incantation or ritualistic washing of the feet. Growth is only for those who can take advantage of it.  We have, of course, no hope of erasing this blot on our social life if we are affected by the thinking of that new and interesting cult which call themselves the modern conservatives. As to this, I suppose, there will be general agreement. The modern conservative is not even especially modern. He is engaged on the contrary, in one of man’s oldest, best financed, most applauded, and, on the whole, least successful exercises in moral philosophy. That is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. It is an exercise which always involves a certain number of internal contradictions and even a few absurdities. The conspicuously wealthy turn up urging the character-building value of privation for the poor. The man who has struck it rich in minerals, oil, or other bounties of nature is found explaining the debilitating effect of unearned income from the state. The corporate executive who is a superlative success as an organization man weighs in on the evils of bureaucracy. Federal aid to education is feared by those who live in suburbs that could easily forgo this danger, and by people whose children are in public schools. Socialized medicine is condemned by men emerging from Walter Reed Hospital. Social Security is viewed with alarm by those who have the comfortable cushion of an inherited income. Those who are immediately threatened by public efforts to meet their needs — whether widows, small farmers, hospitalized veterans, or the unemployed — are almost always oblivious to the danger.”

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006)




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  1. This is well said. When you flavor it with human nature that says “my success is due to merit, while yours is due to good fortune,” you get a reluctance for the powerful to see the problems of the have nots.

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