Galbraith's work remains an essential guidepost of American mores as well as the American economy. His work explores the balance of forces that add up to a mosaic of prestige in business and power in politics. It provides a unique synthesis of pluralist and elitist concepts of power. While recognizing in his new introduction the diminution of certain forces, such as trade unionism at one end and the national corporation at the other, Galbraith knows that it is not only international competition that accounts for this startling reduction in overall American capitalism, but its internal weakness, noting that "we now know that we may have less to fear from corporate power than from corporate incompetence".
The Rebirth of Market Power
THE OLD SOLUTION of the problem of economic power suffered the same devastation from the new measures of market concentration and the new ideas as did the old confidence that social efficiency would be maximized. The competition of the competitive model solved the problem of private economic power by denying it, at least in a dangerous form, to anyone. The exception was the rare case of the monopolist. He did have plenary authority over his prices and production and therefore over the wealth and welfare of some part of the community. It was agreed by everyone, the monopolists themselves excepted, that such power was evil and that it should be struck down or be made subject to regulation by the state wherever it was found. The regulation of monopoly represented one of the few instances where, given the competitive model, it was agreed that the state would have to exercise its authority in the economy.
John Kenneth Galbraith
John Kenneth "Ken" Galbraith (October 15, 1908 – April 29, 2006), OC was a Canadian-American economist. He was a Keynesian and an institutionalis, a leading proponent of 20th-century American liberalism. His books on economic topics were bestsellers from the 1950s through the 2000s and he filled the role of public intellectual from the '50s to the 1970s on matters of economics.
Galbraith was a prolific author who produced four dozen books and over a thousand articles on various subjects. Among his most famous works was a popular trilogy on economics, American Capitalism (1952), The Affluent Society (1958), and The New Industrial State (1967). He taught at Harvard University for many years. Galbraith was active in Democratic Party politics, serving in the administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson; he served as United States Ambassador to India under Kennedy. Due to his prodigious literary output he was arguably the best known economist in the world during his lifetime and was one of a select few people to be awarded the Medal of Freedom, in 1946, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000, for services to economics.