[Marxism] Fwd: The End of Normal: The Great Crisis and the Future of Growth: James K. Galbraith: 9781451644920: Amazon.com: Books

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Sep 16 15:44:39 MDT 2014

 From chapter one:

 From 1945 to 1970, the United States enjoyed a growing and generally 
stable economy and also dominance in world affairs. Forty years later, 
this period seems brief and distant, but at the time it seemed to 
Americans the natural culmination of national success. It was the start 
of a new history, justified by victory in war and sustained in 
resistance to communism. That there was a communist challenge imparted 
both a certain no-nonsense pragmatism to policy, empowering the Cold War 
liberals of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the RAND 
Corporation, while driving the free-market romantics of Chicago (notably 
Milton Friedman) to the sidelines. Yet few seriously doubted that 
challenge could or should be met. The United States was the strongest 
country, the most advanced, the undamaged victor in world war, the 
leader of world manufacturing, the home of the great industrial 
corporation, and the linchpin of a new, permanent, stable architecture 
of international finance. These were facts, not simply talking points, 
and it took a brave and even self-marginalizing economist, willing to 
risk professional isolation in the mold of Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy, 
to deny them.

Nor were optimism and self-confidence the preserve of elites. Ordinary 
citizens agreed, and to keep them in fear of communism under the 
circumstances required major investments in propaganda. Energy was 
cheap. Food was cheap, with (thanks to price supports) staples such as 
milk and corn and wheat in great oversupply. Interest rates were low and 
credit was available to those who qualified, and so housing, though 
modest by later standards, was cheap enough for whites. Jobs were often 
unionized, and their wages rose with average productivity gains. Good 
jobs were not widely open to women, but the men who held them had 
enough, by the standards of the time, for family life. As wages rose, so 
did taxes, and the country could and did invest in long-distance roads 
and suburbs. There were big advances in childhood health, notably 
against polio but also measles, mumps, rubella, tuberculosis, vitamin 
deficiencies, bad teeth, and much else besides. In many states, higher 
education was tuition-free in public universities with good reputations. 
Though working-class white America was much poorer than today and much 
more likely to die poor, there had never been a better time to have 
children. And there never would be again. Over the eighteen years of the 
baby boom, from 1946 to 1964, the fruits of growth were matched by a 
rapidly rising population to enjoy them.

It was in this spirit that, in the 1950s, economists invented the theory 
of economic growth. The theory set out to explain why things were good 
and how the trajectory might be maintained. Few economists in the 
depression-ridden and desperate 1930s would have considered wasting time 
on such questions, but now they seemed critical: What did growth depend 
on? What were the conditions required for growth to be sustained? How 
much investment could you have without choking off consumption and 
demand? How much consumption could you have without starving the future? 
The economists’ answer would be that, in the long run, economic growth 
depended on three factors: population growth, technological change, and 


More information about the Marxism mailing list