In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 3, 2008 26 Adar I 5768

An Old Argument in New Clothes: ‘Popular Prosperity’ Still Rankles Certain Elites

By Suzanne Fields

Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | One of the most influential books of our generation, a polemic against consumerism, "commercialism" and greed, turns 50 years old this year. And still the argument lives, continuing to tangle traffic at the crowded intersection of politics and culture, in what shapes up as a particularly pivotal year.

"The Affluent Society" was a best-selling rant by John Kenneth Galbraith, a Harvard economics professor, against the perceived excesses of the boom years following the end of World War II. The mills and factories of America were liberated to satisfy the pent-up demand of the generation deprived of nearly everything by the Depression and war. Such popular demand seemed, well, unseemly, within certain ivied walls. Scorning the good life for others is easy if you're a tenured professor at Harvard, observing from a protected and cozy sinecure, but the professor's book was enormously influential.

We can see this influence reflected today in the attitudes and arguments of environmentalists and other elites of the left, eager to midwife communal misery, ban things and tell the rest of us how to live. The Galbraith book ran against the conventional wisdom of the day. No one would have predicted that his arguments would become the new conventional wisdom.

"The Affluent Society" has gone through several printings, and contemporary critics of the growth of what Daniel Ben-Ami calls "popular prosperity" continue to make the Galbraith case whether they have read his book or not. Fifty years ago, memories of the Depression — of the bread lines, the devastation of the Dust Bowl and the migration of thousands of Okies and "Arkies" to Southern California in search of enough work to earn something to eat — were memories still fresh and raw. Only with the end of World War II did the economy begin to bestir itself: "In the period from the late 1940s to 1973," Daniel Ben-Ami writes on spiked , an Internet site, "the American economy enjoyed its greatest ever growth spurt ... (and) the overriding emphasis on growth in economic policy, rather than simply an attachment to stability, emerged."

Harry S. Truman, everybody's favorite Democratic president, was an unapologetic architect of the postwar boom of "popular prosperity." He praised growth in his State of the Union address in January 1949: "Government and business must work together constantly to achieve more and more jobs and more and more production — which mean more and more prosperity for all the people."

A half-century later, this still resonates with most of us as the kind of common sense we want and expect in a president. But Professor Galbraith argued that since the end of the Depression, there had been such "a mountainous rise in well-being" that it was no longer necessary for America and Western Europe to promote prosperity. The pursuit of growth — i.e., "a mountainous rise in well-being" — would make some people rich but damage everybody else. He predicted that private affluence would only encourage public squalor. "The "counterpart of increasing opulence," he wrote, "will be deepening filth."

The deprivations endured by our parents and grandparents have long since been relegated to the bitter but dimming memories of a swiftly fading generation. Those earlier Americans knew actual hunger, a terror few of us can fathom. With a few shameful exceptions, the only Americans going to bed hungry tonight are Americans on a diet. But the arguments of those who have no confidence in the tastes and judgment of ordinary Americans take on new relevance with the expanding explosion of new things — an abundance of prosperity unimagined in our grandparents' time.

Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the worldwide Anglican faith, echoes Professor Galbraith in a new government study in Britain called the Good Childhood Inquiry. "The selling of lifestyles to children," he warns, "creates a culture of material competitiveness and promotes acquisitive individualism at the expense of the principles of community and co-operation." He rails, like John Kenneth Galbraith before him, at advertising aimed at children as "ruthless and exploitative," and cites the lament of many parents that the pervasive influence of television is "corrupting" and debilitating.

Thoughtful parents will take heed of the archbishop's point, but these are not new complaints, and whether the government should be the nanny to guide us on the straight and narrow is a question at the heart of the debates leading to the election of a new president. That would be the change we can't believe in.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment on JWR contributor Suzanne Fields' column by clicking here.


Suzanne Fields Archives

© 2006, Creators Syndicate, Suzanne Fields