Monday, May 01, 2006

Death of a giant - John Kenneth Galbraith (age 97)

WAMU noted the death of economist John Kenneth Galbraith this morning at the age of 97. He began his career, after graduating from UC Berkley as head of President Roosevelt’s Office of Price Stabilization. In an interview, he said this was the most power he ever had. Later he was President Kennedy’s Ambassador to India. He was a celebrity economist whose fame was in part attributable to the fact that he wrote about economic issues in language that people could understand. Many of his colleagues in the economics profession were jealous of his celebrity status.

But what I found most compelling was that, in the words of the commentator, he kept writing. His last book was published in 2004, when Galbraith was 95.

Hm… I am 68 and my father is 95. My family seem to have resilient genes, though of course longevity is God’s hands not in ours. I published my first book in 1969, at age 31. Since then, there have only been five more, either edited, co-authored or single authored. I make no claim that my books or career is remotely comparable to Gaibraith’s, of course. But with luck, I could count on at least 20 more productive years, which should add up to at least four more books (or comparable output, depending on the best technologies for disseminating ideas).

For me, however, books – and articles too – are best written one at a time. It is about time to start thinking about the next one, while continuing to make sure that Paradise Poisoned reaches the widest possible audience.


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