Monday, July 30, 2007

Conventional Wisdom

Since we're already talking about political economy today, let's mention Galbraith's 'The Affluent Society', which I read earlier this summer, in entirety. The book coined the phrase 'the conventional wisdom'.

The book was a disappointing read, and confirmed by opinion of Mundell as the best Canadian economist of all time. I still have no idea on 'the best Canadian economist who hasn't abandoned Canada'. Suggestions?

Regardless, the phrase 'the conventional wisdom' is ubitiquous in the economic literature. I wonder at the ratio of journal publications that contain the phrase in economics to journal publications that contain the phrase in, say, sociology. I suspect it would be a fairly large number.

However, despite my lack of appreciation for the book, it does serve to remind me of something. The main policy proposal of Galbraith's was 'Cyclically Graduated Compensation', which was so unpopular, it only has three Google hits today. Similarly, very few people embraced the idea that advertisers were to blame for the woes of economic society, and that humanity wasn't capable of dreaming up wants for itself past a certain point.

However, despite the rejection of his arguments, 'the conventional wisdom' survived. As such, I believe that his arguments continue to lurk in the back of a number of minds. In short, never be completely convinced that a defunct argument has no influence, though Keynes has already famously shared this sentiment.

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