Cover image for Name-dropping : from F.D.R. on
Name-dropping : from F.D.R. on
Galbraith, John Kenneth, 1908-2006.
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., 1999.
Physical Description:
194 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 22 cm
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E747 .G28 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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John Kenneth Galbraith, the noted economist, joined Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal in 1934 and served that administration during World War II in the crucial role of deputy head of the Office of Price Administration in charge of price control. His service to FDR and his relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt began a long involvement with the leaders who would define much of the course of the twentieth century: Truman, Stevenson, John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy, Nehru, Lyndon Johnson,and others at home and abroad. Drawing on a lifetime of access to many of the greatest public figures, Galbraith creates a rich and uniquely personal history of the century -- a history he helped to shape. We are invited to hear FDR on the Great Depression and World War II; Albert Speer, the Third Reich's architect and armaments minister, on the boorishness and incompetence of the Nazi leadership; John F. Kennedy, from youth to the presidency; Jacqueline Kennedy's shrewd judgments of the WhiteHouse inner circle. In this clear-eyed, unsparing, and amusing look back at the world and the people he has known, Galbraith tells what these leaders did -- how they looked to him then and how they look to him now -- with unforgettable reminiscences and a rich infusion of engaging anecdotes. Name-Dropping charts the political landscape of the past sixty-five years with the dazzling insight, humor, and literary skill that mark Galbraith as one of the most distinguished writers of our time. Just some of the portraits . . . Eisenhower's brother remembered a meeting in the Oval Office at which some difficult and potentially very unpopular decision was reached. Reflecting on the expected adverse reaction, Ike had said, "It's all right. When I've explained it to the press, no one will have any clear idea what we intend to do." Kennedy's preference for plain talk did not spare his friends. Before I left for New Delhi in April 1961, we had a farewell breakfast at the White House. That morningthe New York Times had a piece on the new ambassador to India; Kennedy asked how I liked it. It had been generally favorable, and I said it was all right, but I didn't see why they had to call me arrogant. "I don't know why not," said Kennedy. "Everybody else does." Nehru said that one day at Gandhi's ashram in Ahmedabad a friend and supporter sought to ease a conflict with the British Viceroy by saying, "Mahatma, you must know that Lord Irwin never makes a decision without praying over it first." Gandhi reflected on this for some minutes. Then he said, "And why do you suppose God so consistently gives him the wrong advice?" Johnson once said to me, "Did it ever occur to you, Ken, that making a speech on economics is a lot like pissin' down your leg? It seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else." Not since have I given a speech on economics without having that metaphor in mind.

Author Notes

John Kenneth Galbraith is a Canadian-born American economist who is perhaps the most widely read economist in the world. He taught at Harvard from 1934-1939 and then again from 1949-1975. An adviser to President John F. Kennedy, he served from 1961 to 1963 as U.S. ambassador to India. His style and wit in writing and his frequent media appearances have contributed greatly to his fame as an economist.

Galbraith believes that it is not sufficient for government to manage the level of effective demand; government must manage the market itself. Galbraith stated in American Capitalism (1952) that the market is far from competitive, and governments and labor unions must serve as "countervailing power." He believes that ultimately "producer sovereignty" takes the place of consumer sovereignty and the producer - not the consumer - becomes ruler of the marketplace.

(Bowker Author Biography) John Kenneth Galbraith, born in 1908, is the Paul M. Warburg Professor of Economics Emeritus at Harvard University and a past president of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Economic Association. He is the author of thirty-one books spanning five decades. He has received honorary degrees from, among others, Harvard University, Oxford University, the University of Paris, the University of Toronto, and Moscow State University. He is Commandeur de la Legion d'Honneur in France, and in 1997 he was inducted into the Order of Canada. In 2000, at a White House ceremony, he was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Galbraiths thin, impressionistic sojourn through his astounding career provides glimpses of some of the centurys most remarkable personalitiesincluding his own. In a series of chapters devoted to powerful, compelling individuals (FDR, JFK, LBJ, Nehru, to name a few), Galbraith rehashes much that is already known about these figures while offering his own perspective on their personalities and motivations. An astute observer of personalities, Galbraith, professor emeritus of economics at Harvard, expresses admiration for Nehru, Adlai Stevenson, Eleanor Roosevelt and John and Jackie Kennedy, scorn for Albert Speer and aversion to LBJ for his Vietnam entanglements. Galbraith claims he was ignorant of JFKs philandering, expresses his belief that Nazi leaders he interrogated after WWII were an incredible collection of often deranged incompetents and relates the rebukes he received from FDR concerning price control and rationing decisions. Though Galbraith treads on familiar ground with his defenses of Keynesian economics and occasional forays into liberal, Affluent Society territory, the book never congeals into a coherent whole. It is, instead an anecdotal mlange of first-hand impressions, autobiography and history. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

Readers weary of endless parsing of the events of the past year in Washington can skip the memoirs of chattering twentysomethings and substitute these brief but vivid recollections from a remarkable ninetysomething. For decades, Galbraith was an active participant in politics and government; since the '70s, he has been a thoughtful observer from his economics chair (now emeritus) at Harvard. Two chapters here are devoted to Franklin Roosevelt: one on the New Deal; the other on the war as Galbraith experienced it in Washington as head of the Office of Price Administration. He writes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Adlai Stevenson, John and Jackie Kennedy and the Kennedy inner circle, and Lyndon Johnson. Less obvious subjects include Albert Speer, Jawaharlal Nehru, and three of the author's friends--Chester Bowles, George Ball, and Averell Harriman. The old man still writes gracefully and often insightfully about the notable people with whom and for whom he has worked. --Mary Carroll

Library Journal Review

It is hard to believe that Galbraith is an economist, for he is such a gifted writer. In his latest book, Galbraith (The Good Society, LJ 4/1/96) reminisces about important figures with whom he has been involved in his long and distinguished life in the public arena. Among the brief portraits are those of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Truman, JFK, LBJ, Nehru, and others. More than the self-effacing title indicates, this book offers important insights into the people and times on which its author reflects. Galbraith writes with a wit, style, and elegance few can match. While composed in an informal and conversational manner, this work delves into weighty matters concerning the key factors (leaders personality traits as well as political circumstances) that shaped an important era in modern history. At its close, Galbraith helps us make sense of the people and forces that shaped the 20th century. For public and academic libraries.Michael A. Genovese, Loyola Marymount Univ., Los Angeles (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One On Name-Dropping Books, like those who write them, have an unplanned life of their own. The very act of writing has a controlling role. When I started this book, I intended to describe the political personality -- the personal and public traits that, as I saw them, allowed the great leaders of our century to influence or dominate the political scene. There are still elements of this intention in the pages that follow. But it faded as a central purpose.     Instead, as the work proceeded, there was more interest for the author, as I trust there will be for the reader, in how the great political figures appeared to their contemporaries, of whom I was one. What did I recall of personal encounters or public association with Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor, the Kennedys, Nehru and others? Such recollections took over, but with them came a certain risk.     Reminiscence and anecdote, as they tell of one's meetings with the great or the prominent, are an established form of self-enhancement. They make known that one was there. This is not my purpose; my aim is to inform and perhaps, on occasion, to entertain. The risk, nonetheless, exists that critics who are less than tolerant may suggest that I am indulging in name-dropping. Hence the title of the book and that of this chapter; nothing so disarms a prosecutor as a prior confession of guilt.     Not all that follows concerns the political figures of my time. I frequently digress to write of my own experience and of responsibilities accorded me. This tells something of those of whom I speak. Not exceptionally in writing of this kind, it may well tell more of the author.     Here also is an occasional event or personal encounter of which I have told before. For this I do not apologize. All education and all worthwhile writing is, in some measure, a recapture of the already known. Much of this book--most, in fact--is centered on now-distant times; an important part dates to the first half of the century that is now drawing to a close. It was with the events of this period and the people that I was involved. I now read of, and from time to time encounter, the influential men and women of the present day. It is for others to tell of them; this I do not, in all cases, regret. There will be question less as to those who have been selected for recollection and celebration here than as to those omitted or discussed only briefly. The reason is not far to seek; it is whether or not I was there and have something to add. On one or two occasions I met Dwight D. Eisenhower; he was and remains one of the underestimated Presidents of our time. A Republican, he accepted the great social legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the twenty-year New Deal era and made it an integral part of American life. F.D.R. initiated, Truman continued, Eisenhower confirmed. He also left the deathless and death-defying warning as to the military-industrial complex. But when I have said this of Ike, I have very little else to say.     As to another major figure, one exactly of my generation, there is a similar problem. Ronald Reagan and I were fellow founders of Americans for Democratic Action, once and still a dominant liberal voice in the land. Ronnie, as he was known, left us when his screen career diminished and he began giving well-paid lectures on, as it was then denoted, the free enterprise system. His regression, we always said, was not from any commitment to newly acquired belief; it was only for the money. On his later career there was nothing of which I had firsthand knowledge. This, I do slightly regret, for Ronald Reagan was the first wholly uninhibited Keynesian President -- eager public spending to provide economic stimulation and employment, all financed by large public borrowing, with the resulting budget deficit. However, there was a dark side, to which Keynes would have reacted adversely: the spending was for extensively unneeded armaments.     With Jimmy Carter, whom I first met in Georgia and saw on later occasions, I had only a distant association. It was his special tragedy that, while Ronald Reagan succeeded with the economic policies his party had so long opposed, Jimmy Carter was taken to defeat by those conservatives had long urged. His highly reputable economists, in pursuit of economic virtue, accepted that a President seeking re-election could survive inflation attacked only by its traditional and painful remedies: high interest rates, economic stagnation, unemployment. It was a triumph of rigorous economic orthodoxy; ignored only was Jimmy Carter's all-but-certain fate. One of my closest and certainly one of my most admired friends in politics over many years has been George McGovern, presidential candidate in 1972 against Richard Nixon. I had a small role in his selection as a candidate and a not insignificant one in his defeat. At the Democratic Convention that year, as a leader of the Massachusetts delegation, I vetoed his first choice for Vice President, Kevin White, the Mayor of Boston. I did not think I could win state support for his nomination because, among other things, White had endorsed McGovern's opponent in the primary. There would be an unseemly row on the floor. McGovern went on to Tom Eagleton, who, it soon became known, had once had some modest, wholly curable psychiatric problems. Unwisely, George dropped him from the ticket and then was involved in an embarrassing search for a substitute. In consequence, his campaign had a very bad start. He should have ignored my advice. I haven't told here of George McGovern perhaps because, again, I have little to add, perhaps more because I prefer to write about those with whom my association was less disastrous.     Also passed over with McGovern, but for a very different reason, is Richard Nixon. In 1942, in the tense months after Pearl Harbor, he served in the Office of Price Administration as an attorney on rubber-tire rationing, of which I was then in charge. He drafted my letters, but I did not, as I recall, ever meet him. I became fully aware of his existence and character only with his crusade against Communism and Alger Hiss. Later when his enemies' list became known, my name was present, adorned, according to my recollection, with two checkmarks. In one of his taped and reluctantly released conversations in the White House, he dignified me as the leading enemy of good public process in our time. But, to repeat, I never met him, so Richard Nixon is not here. I once contemplated, a chapter in this book on Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle. Not in recent times, not perhaps ever, have two politicians accepted greater risks with greater ultimate success. How grim and dim the prospect in 1940; how enormous our debt to their intransigent stand. During my wartime years in Washington, Churchill was especially a presence; one thought of him, more even perhaps than of F.D.R., as the guiding military force of the war. I did meet both Churchill and de Gaulle but only after the war was over and for no deeply operative purpose. To have made anything of these encounters would, indeed, have been namedropping. A more serious matter is the very few women--only Eleanor Roosevelt and Jacqueline Kennedy--present in these accounts. That, very simply, is because, for most of the period here covered, women were not visible in the political world. The concern here is with high office; this was the virtually exclusive domain, the preserve, of men. Among presidential wives some did step forward. In her husband's presidency Nancy Reagan was an evident force; with her, not surprisingly, I had no personal acquaintance.     John F. Kennedy, in a conversation of which I have told on other occasions, once raised with me the question of women in politics. He advanced what I thought the deeply retrograde thesis that women were naturally lacking in political talent. He asked me to name some outstandingly successful women politicians. I responded with Eleanor Roosevelt. He agreed and asked for another. I was troubled for the moment and, in some desperation, proposed Elizabeth I. Kennedy laughed scornfully and said, "Now you have only one left, Maggie Smith." Margaret Chase Smith, pioneer woman senator from Maine, was not--here we differed--a favorite of his.     Were Kennedy now alive, he would not be making the point; women are still underrepresented in politics, but the change in the last thirty-five years strongly affirms their political aptitude. Alas, it came too late for this volume. And there is yet to be a woman President. I turn now to Franklin Roosevelt, the first and in many ways the greatest of those I encountered over a lifetime. And the one, more than incidentally, who accorded me the most responsibility. It was no slight matter to have control over all the prices of all things sold in the United States. And briefly over consumer rationing as well. My role in the Office of Price Administration was my principal association with F.D.R., but I also observed his leadership in the New Deal and, more generally, in the war, and of this I will tell as well. Copyright © 1999 John Kenneth Galbraith. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

1. On Name-Droppingp. 1
2. Franklin D. Roosevelt, I: The New Dealp. 9
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt, II: The War in Washingtonp. 25
4. Eleanor Rooseveltp. 45
5. Albert Speer: The Essential Enemyp. 57
6. Harry Truman -- and Afterp. 67
7. Too Madly for Adlaip. 85
8. John F. Kennedyp. 101
9. The Kennedy Circle, Jacqueline Kennedyp. 119
10. Jawaharlal Nehrup. 131
11. L.B.J.p. 143
12. Bowles, Ball, Harriman and the Tyranny of Policyp. 157
13. Sketches on the Larger Screenp. 175