John Kenneth Galbraith Quotes

A bad book is the worse that it cannot repent. It has not been the devil’s policy to keep the masses of mankind in ignorance; but finding that they will read, he is doing all in his power to poison their books.

A nuclear war does not defend a country and it does not defend a system. I’ve put it the same way many times; not even the most accomplished ideologue will be able to tell the difference between the ashes of capitalism and the ashes of communism.

A person buying ordinary products in a supermarket is in touch with his deepest emotions.

Agreeable as it is to know where one is proceeding, it is far more important to know where one has arrived.

All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.

All successful revolutions are the kicking in of a rotten door. The violence of revolutions is the violence of men who charge into a vacuum.

Americans had built themselves a world of speculative pipe dreams. That world was inhabited, not by people who had to be convinced, but by people who sought excuses for believing.

But there is merit even in the mentally retarded legislator. He asks the questions that everyone is afraid to ask for fear of seeming simple.

By all but the pathologically romantic, it is now recognized that this is not the age of the small man.

Conscience is better served by a myth.

Economics is a subject profoundly conducive to cliche, resonant with boredom. On few topics is an American audience so practiced in turning off its ears and minds. And none can say that the response is ill advised.

Economics is extremely useful as a form of employment for economists.

Economists are generally negligent of their heroes.

Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.

Few can believe that suffering, especially by others, is in vain. Anything that is disagreeable must surely have beneficial economic effects.

Few people at the beginning of the nineteenth century needed an adman to tell them what they wanted.

Humor is richly rewarding to the person who employs it. It has some value in gaining and holding attention, but it has no persuasive value at all. I am worried about our tendency to over invest in things and under invest in people.

If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error. If there must be madness, something may be said for having it on a heroic scale.

If wrinkles must be written upon our brows, let them not be written upon the heart. The spirit should never grow old.

In all life one should comfort the afflicted, but verily, also, one should afflict the comfortable, and especially when they are comfortably, contentedly, even happily wrong.

In any great organization it is far, far safer to be wrong with the majority than to be right alone.

In economics, hope and faith coexist with great scientific pretension and also a deep desire for respectability.

In economics, the majority is always wrong.

In the assumption that power belongs as a matter of course to capital, all economists are Marxians.

In the choice between changing ones mind and proving there’s no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof.

In the United States, though power corrupts, the expectation of power paralyzes.

It has been the acknowledged right of every Marxist scholar to read into Marx the particular meaning that he himself prefers and to treat all others with indignation.

It is a far, far better thing to have a firm anchor in nonsense than to put out on the troubled seas of thought.

It is my guiding confession that I believe the greatest error in economics is in seeing the economy as a stable, immutable structure.

It would be foolish to suggest that government is a good custodian of aesthetic goals. But, there is no alternative to the state.

Liberalism is, I think, resurgent. One reason is that more and more people are so painfully aware of the alternative.

Man, at least when educated, is a pessimist. He believes it safer not to reflect on his achievements; Jove is known to strike such people down. Marx profoundly affected those who did not accept his system. His influence extended to those who least supposed they were subject to it.

Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.

Men of conservative temperament have long suspected that one thing leads to another.

Milton Friedman’s misfortune is that his economic policies have been tried. Modesty is a vastly overrated virtue.

Money differs from an automobile or mistress in being equally important to those who have it and those who do not.

Money is a singular thing. It ranks with love as man’s greatest source of joy. And with death as his greatest source of anxiety. Over all history it has oppressed nearly all people in one of two ways: either it has been abundant and very unreliable, or reliable and very scarce.

More die in the United States of too much food than of too little.

Much literary criticism comes from people for whom extreme specialization is a cover for either grave cerebral inadequacy or terminal laziness, the latter being a much cherished aspect of academic freedom.

Nothing is more portable than rich people and their money.

Nothing is so admirable in politics as a short memory.

Of all classes the rich are the most noticed and the least studied.

One of the greatest pieces of economic wisdom is to know what you do not know.

People are the common denominator of progress.

People who are in a fortunate position always attribute virtue to what makes them so happy.

Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.

Politics is the art of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable. Power is as power does.

Power is not something that can be assumed or discarded at will like underwear.

Simple minds, presumably, are the easiest to manage.

The commencement speech is not, I think, a wholly satisfactory manifestation of our culture.

The complaints of the privileged are too often confused with the voice of the masses.

The conspicuously wealthy turn up urging the character building values of the privation of the poor.

The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking. The enemy of the conventional wisdom is not ideas but the march of events.

The great dialectic in our time is not, as anciently and by some still supposed, between capital and labor; it is between economic enterprise and the state.

The greater the wealth the thicker will be the dirt.

The happiest time of anyone’s life is just after the first divorce.

The man who is admired for the ingenuity of his larceny is almost always rediscovering some earlier form of fraud. The basic forms are all known, have all been practiced. The manners of capitalism improve. The morals may not.

The Metropolis should have been aborted long before it became New York, London or Tokyo.

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.

The present age of contentment will come to an end only when and if the adverse developments that it fosters challenge the sense of comfortable well-being.

The privileged have regularly invited their own destruction with their greed.

The process by which banks create money is so simple that the mind is repelled.

The process by which wants are now synthesized is a potential source of economic instability. Production and therewith employment and social security are dependent on an inherently unstable process of consumer debt creation. This may one day falter.

The salary of the chief executive of a large corporation is not a market award for achievement. It is frequently in the nature of a warm personal gesture by the individual to himself.

The sense of responsibility in the financial community for the community as a whole is not small. It is nearly nil.

The study of money, above all other fields in economics, is the one in which complexity is used to disguise truth or to evade truth, not to reveal it.

Then the shit hit the fan.

There are few ironclad rules of diplomacy but to one there is no exception. When an official reports that talks were useful, it can safely be concluded that nothing was accomplished.

There are times in politics when you must be on the right side and lose.

There are two kinds of forecasters: those who don’t know, and those who don’t know they don’t know.

There is certainly no absolute standard of beauty. That precisely is what makes its pursuit so interesting.

There is something wonderful in seeing a wrong-headed majority assailed by truth.

There’s a certain part of the contented majority who love anybody who is worth a billion dollars.

Total physical and mental inertia are highly agreeable, much more so than we allow ourselves to imagine. A beach not only permits such inertia but enforces it, thus neatly eliminating all problems of guilt. It is now the only place in our overly active world that does.

Trickle-down theory – the less than elegant metaphor that if one feeds the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows.

Truth has anciently been called the first casualty of war. Money may, in fact, have priority.

Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it’s just the opposite.

War remains the decisive human failure.

We all agree that pessimism is a mark of superior intellect.

We are becoming the servants in thought, as in action of the machine we have created to serve us.

We can safely abandon the doctrine of the eighties, namely that the rich were not working because they had too little money, the poor because they had much.

We have escapist fiction, so why not escapist biography?

We now in the United States have more security guards for the rich than we have police services for the poor districts.

Wealth is not without its advantages and the case to the contrary, although it has often been made, has never proved widely persuasive.

Wealth, in even the most improbable cases, manages to convey the aspect of intelligence. When the modern corporation acquires power over markets, power in the community, power over the state and power over belief, it is a political instrument, different in degree but not in kind from the state itself.

Where humor is concerned there are no standards – no one can say what is good or bad, although you can be sure that everyone will.

Wisdom is often an abstraction associated not with fact or reality but with the man who asserts it and the manner of its assertion.

With the American failure came world

You will find that the State is the kind of organization which, though it does big things badly, does small things badly, too.