Traces the course of the economic comfort achieved by the politically dominant community during the Reagan-Bush era of the 1980s
The Culture of Contentment is a keen and striking appraisal of America's current, far from happy state of affairs, written by possibly our wisest and certainly our most lucid and irreverent economist, John Kenneth Galbraith. This major new work goes far beyond Ronald Reagan and George Bush to ultimate and controlling causes--to the rise of a greatly self-satisfied elite that is now dominant in the electoral process. The result: today, a once strong and aspiring nation has lapsed into a self-serving economic and social stasis. Surveying this development with a detached and penetrating eye, Galbraith lives up to his reputation as "the voice and conscience of the economic profession."Galbraith here scrutinizes the perilous by-products of complacency: a commitment to short-term action and inaction, restricted investment as a basic policy, government seen only as a burden, corporate sclerosis, and the dark side of financial speculation. He also considers the fate of the "functional underclass," people who are stalled in poverty and denied the crucial support needed to change their situation.The larcenous savings-and-loan and junk-bond scandals are examined as major examples of the controlling principles of contentment. And from the clear-eyed global perspective for which he is celebrated, Galbraith regards key issues on the world scene: the emergence of the powerful new economies of Japan and Germany, the larger, often recreational nature of foreign policy, and self-controlling, self-enhancing military power. Making no concession to false optimism, Galbraith leaves no one in doubt as to what could be done, little as we may be disposed to do it.Here, in short, is an acute and powerful assessment of where we are heading and not heading and what the consequences will be, from one of the sharpest and most original minds of our time.