Monday, April 11, 2005

Great Bureaucrats in History: John Kenneth Galbraith

I need to do an honor roll of great bureaucrats in history. That thought was prompted by Brookings sponsoring a discussion of The Legacy of John Kenneth Galbraith: "new biography by Harvard professor Richard Parker entitled, John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics. Parker shows how Galbraith, from his early championing of Keynesian economics to his acerbic analysis of America's 'private wealth and public squalor,' regularly challenged prevailing theories and policies."

Galbraith walked the very halls of USDA where I worked, and even worked in the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, predecessor of Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service. He was originally trained as an ag economist. One piece of invaluable advice I took from one of his books, an early memoir I think. It was: always volunteer to do the first draft. That way you can get your own ideas in. I tried to follow that faithfully over the years. Unfortunately, the proliferation of word processing and networking software may be diminishing the effectiveness of the strategy. But still: write, write first, is the watchword for bureaucrats.

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