Sunday Reading: Economic Letters of Note

Rick Holt edited a superb book with John Kenneth Galbraith's letters from the 1930s until his death in 2006. He wrote to everybody, friend and foe, and displays his usual wit. Here I reproduce parts of his letter to Joan Robinson, that he wrote after having invited her to give the Ely Lecture (subscription required).

The letter is from January 12, 1972. It says:

Dear Joan:

Many thanks for your note. If the meetings were slightly less stuffy and neoclassical than usual, it was owing more to you than to anyone else...

The president of the Association, as I think I said once in New Orleans, has powers closely paralleling the President of Italy, but perhaps less. Indeed this is the way in which all establishments maintain themselves. One diffuses power through people who are reliably like of mind. But I hope to have some slight influence on the Journals, and I'm going to make a particularly determined effort to revise hiring practices in the profession... A good deal has been done in the past couple of years to put the problems of the black and Spanish-speaking minorities on the professional conscience. Discrimination against women remains in some degree the most blatant.

Would you... write me a little more complete observation and complaint... Sometimes the knowledge of an unsatisfied clientele produces some results.
John Kenneth Galbraith

I was lucky to see Galbraith give a talk (subscription required) at the New School back in November 1998. Great book. Buy two copies!


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