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December 9, 1960

Delivering the annual Martin Crego lecture, Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith put aside his announced topic, “Modern Industrialism, East and West,” to discuss both “vulgar” and “worthy” responses to his book, The Affluent Society (1958). Explaining, according to Margaret Rose ’61 and Pam Rymer ’61, writing in The Miscellany News, that traditional economic problems were laregly absent from mid-century America, Galbraith identified instead the “lack of an urgent need to produce; that is, to produce can no longer be the sole aim because the demand for the products is not increasing so fast as the growth rate. Already, we are almost satiated with material goods. The pressure caused by this mis-balance in the economy is felt by the private sector because it is requested to carry public burdens which it cannot and should not assume. Modern society should apply itself to correcting the imbalance of private wealth and public need, not by producing more, but by creating a means for the public financing of its needs.”

Galbraith dismissed “vulgar” critics of this position, such as the “’quaint sage of Arizona, Mr. [Senator Barry] Goldwater,’ whose theories are based ‘on verbal aptitude rather than thought’” and the “‘one time paragon of the New Deal,’” Raymond Moser, a key member of Franklin Roosevelt’s “brain trust” who was now a radical conservative. But he took seriously other criticism of, as the student reviewers put it, “his idea that the process of want creation must be matured by a change from the simple production of goods to that of satisfying the more fundamental wants—good health, education, the qualities which sustain a strong society.”

The following morning—a Saturday—Professor Galbraith met with students in a question and answer format.

The Crego lecture, part of the Crego Endowment established in 1956 by Jean Crego ’32 in honor of her father, was an annual lecture in the general field of economics, under the auspices of the economics department.

The Years