Keynes and Galbraith as Moralists

Tue Feb 15, 2005

A short review of Richard Parker’s biography of Galbraith contains the following:

If that interpretation construes the facts in a light favorable to Galbraith, Parker is consistently so inclined. Yes, he concedes, many economists consider Galbraith not really one of their own in a discipline that extolls mathematical models and aspires to the scientific rigor of physics. For example, Parker quotes MIT’s Robert Solow, who terms Galbraith “fundamentally a moralist.”

But Parker sees nothing wrong with Galbraith’s blend of economics and moral conviction. On the contrary, he would put Galbraith in a pantheon with John Maynard Keynes, whom Parker describes as the “model of the economist as an engaged and politically purposive intellectual.”

My question here is could the uninformed reader be forgiven for thinking that the review implies that Keynes—the author of a Treatise on Probability, the only man besides perhaps Wittgenstein Russell thought more clever than himself—wasn’t given to mathematical models? He gave the Galton Lecture to the Eugenics Society in 1937, after all.