Remembering John Kenneth Galbraith

by Jack Santucci // Published May 5, 2006
The democracy movement fondly remembers John Kenneth Galbraith, who passed away April 29. Galbraith was a political economist, policymaker, author and teacher; two-time recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom; member of the Order of Canada; and aide to Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Johnson.

Among other distinctions, of course.

Galbraith is perhaps best known for his trilogy, which included The Affluent Society, American Capitalism and The New Industrial State. Yet he published well over 40 titles and 1,000+ articles.

He also was an advocate of proportional voting as an alternative to winner-take-all systems' dampening effect on voter choice, participation and, ultimately, the social fabric.


...less than half of American voters participate in their elections. But such a comparison should not bring any solace. As John Kenneth Galbraith once observed, the systematic lack of participation of specific groups of citizens in the electoral process leads to a situation where politicians and political strategists simply ignore the needs and issues of those who fail to participate. They develop electoral platforms designed to reap electoral gains from those likely to vote: white, affluent, older and educated citizens, creating a culture of contentment in which the groups most likely to benefit from government intervention are excluded from policy-making considerations.

Living in Cambridge, MA as a Harvard professor, Galbraith worked toward the 1941 implementation of choice voting in that city. And he successfully defended it as the 1950s saw opponents mobilize prejudice for its repeal in over 20 cities nationwide.

The man and his insight will be missed.