John Kenneth Galbraith was a Canadian-American economist. He was a Keynesian and an institutionalist, and a leading proponent of 20th-century American liberalism who filled the role of public intellectual from the 1950s to the 1970s on matters of economics.

Although he was a president of the American Economic Association, Galbraith was considered an iconoclast by many economists. This is because he rejected the technical analyses and mathematical models of neoclassical economics as being divorced from reality. He believed that economic activity could not be distilled into inviolable laws, but rather was a complex product of the cultural and political milieu in which it occurs. He believed that important factors such as advertising, the separation between corporate ownership and management, oligopoly, and the influence of government and military spending had been largely neglected by most economists.

Galbraith's main ideas focused around the influence of the market power of large corporations. He believed that market power weakened the widely-accepted principle of consumer sovereignty, allowing corporations to be price makers, rather than price takers, allowing corporations with the strongest market power to increase the production of their goods beyond an efficient amount. Galbraith's view of market power was not entirely negative; he also noted that the power of US firms played a part in the success of the US economy.

In his bestselling book The Affluent Society, Galbraith asserts that classical economic theory was true for the eras before the present, which were times of ‘poverty’; now, however, we have moved from an age of poverty to an age of ‘affluence’, and for such an age, a completely new economic theory is needed. Galbraith's main argument is that as society becomes relatively more affluent, so private business must ‘create’ consumer demand through advertising, and while this generates artificial affluence through the production of commercial goods and services, the public sector becomes neglected. He points out that while many Americans were able to purchase luxury items, their parks were polluted and their children attended poorly maintained schools. He argues that markets alone will underprovide (or fail to provide at all) for many public goods, whereas private goods are typically ‘overprovided’ due to the process of advertising creating an artificial demand above the individual's basic needs.

Galbraith was a prolific author who produced four dozen books and over a thousand articles on various subjects. Among his most famous works was a popular trilogy on economics, American Capitalism (1952), The Affluent Society (1958), and The New Industrial State (1967). He taught at Harvard University for many years. Galbraith was active in Democratic Party politics, serving in the administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt, HarryS. Truman, JohnF. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom, in 1946, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000, for services to economics.

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