Economist John Kenneth Galbraith Dies at 97

By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 30, 2006

John Kenneth Galbraith, the author, scholar, diplomat and presidential adviser, who was a preeminent symbol and source of liberal political thought, died last night in Cambridge, Mass. He was 97.

His son Alan said his father died at Mount Auburn Hospital of complications of pneumonia.

An economist and a Harvard professor, Galbraith was an adviser to Democratic presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Bill Clinton. He served John F. Kennedy as ambassador to India.

"He was very lucid until close to the end" and had maintained his good humor, his son said.

Galbraith supplied the intellectual underpinning and moral support for Democratic efforts to extend the benefits of American prosperity throughout the population.

One of his most influential and frequently quoted books was "The Affluent Society," which was published in 1958. Critical of what it took as complacency amid wealth, it was often viewed as an inspiration for Democratic social programs of the 1960s.

Other works included "American Capitalism" (1952), "The New Industrial State" (1967) and "Economics and the Public Purpose" (1973).

Among the most prolific of all American authors, he contributed widely to newspapers and periodicals and wrote more than three dozen books, works of fiction and satire among them.

An unabashed liberal, he was chairman of Americans for Democratic Action during the 1960s. Distinctive for his wit and ideas, he was also physically notable, at 6 feet 8.

He was born on a farm in Canada, where he learned the demands of physical labor, which he could not avoid contrasting in later years with the less onerous tasks imposed on the Harvard faculty. His earliest college-level study was in livestock raising. Later came doctoral study in agricultural economics at the University of California at Berkeley.

Known as a follower of Keynesian economic theories, he joined the Harvard faculty in 1934. Three years later, he became a U.S. citizen.

In 1941, on leave from teaching, he took one of the top posts in the federal Office of Price Administration, playing a vital role in keeping the American economy thriving during the stresses of World War II.

In addition to his wife, Catherine, and son Alan, survivors include two other sons, Peter and Jamie.

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