John Kenneth Galbraith, In His Own Words John Kenneth Galbraith -- social economist, Harvard professor, diplomat -- is dead at 97. His work influenced Roosevelt, Kennedy and Johnson and generations of U.S. politicians. He spoke to Howard Berkes in 1999.
NPR logo

John Kenneth Galbraith, In His Own Words

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5372103/5372104" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
John Kenneth Galbraith, In His Own Words

John Kenneth Galbraith, In His Own Words

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5372103/5372104" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

DON GONYEA, host:

John Kenneth Galbraith, the economist, diplomat, prolific author, Harvard professor and iconoclast died yesterday in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was 97 years old. Born in Canada to a farming family, Galbraith became the country's leading exponent of liberal social economics. He served in the Franklin Roosevelt, Kennedy and Johnson administrations, shaping social policies from the New Deal to the great society. Unabashedly liberal, John Kenneth Galbraith felt Franklin Delano Roosevelt affected our lives more than any other public figure he knew. Galbraith re-emphasized that point in a conversation seven years ago with NPR's Howard Berkes.

Mr. JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH (Economist): Anybody on Social Security, getting unemployment compensation, anybody who feels that there's a certain public responsibility for the well-being of people has a major debt to the New Deal and to FDR.

HOWARD BERKES reporting:

You worked in the Roosevelt administration. Did you...

Mr. GALBRAITH: I worked in the Roosevelt administration, but in terms of power, my life has been downhill ever since. I was put in charge of, first, the price control on rationing and then price control in World War II. And I started with a staff of seven and ended up with somewhere around 15,000 and you could lower price without my permission, but you couldn't raise a price. And I've had no such authority ever since, nor do I want it.

BERKES: You spoke with President Kennedy over time, over the course of many years, from your earliest days, I guess at Harvard, and then later on when he was President. Tell me about those conversations and how you saw him evolve over time, particularly during his years as President.

Mr. GALBRAITH: Well, the special feature of any conversation with JFK involved his enormous candor. I remember the morning when I was leaving to be Ambassador in India and we had breakfast together at the White House and the New York Times had a front-page article out that day on the new Ambassador to India, which was quite favorable. And Kennedy pointed to it and asked how I liked it and I said I did. And then I added, but I don't see why they had to call me arrogant. And Kennedy said, I don't see why not. Everybody else does.

GONYEA: Economist John Kenneth Galbraith died yesterday at the age of 97.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.