Richard G. Petty, MD

John Kenneth Galbraith Quotations

You may perhaps have seen the news this weekend of the death of John Galbraith, at the age of 97.

I never met him, but this Canadian-born economist, Harvard professor, public servant and writer has left a rich legacy, which we should celebrate. Many will disagree with some of his political positions and evaluations, but few could deny that he did his best to stimulate civilized debate about important matters.

He was also a master of the insightful and sometimes humorous quotable quotes. We have an  almost totally clean database of over 26,000  quotations (i.e. no duplicates and virtually all sources checked), and here are some of my favorite Galbraith quotations that I hope that you might find interesting, stimulating, and in a few cases amusing. A small memorial to a fine mind and generous soul.

“All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.”

“All successful revolutions are the kicking in of a rotten door. The violence of revolutions is the violence of men who charge into a vacuum.”

“Any consideration of the life and larger social existence of the modern corporate man begins and also largely ends with the effect of one all-embracing force. That is organization — the highly structured assemblage of men, and now some women, of which he is a part. It is to this, at the expense of family, friends, sex, recreation and sometimes health and effective control of alcoholic intake, that he is expected to devote his energies.”

“Change comes not from men and women changing their minds, but from the change from one generation to the next.”

“Economics is extremely useful as a form of employment for economists.”

“Every community needs a great many communal services. By rewarding such work with honor and esteem, the very best men can be had for nothing.”

“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”

“I am not quite sure what the advantage is in having a few more dollars to spend if the air is too dirty to breathe, the water too polluted to drink, the commuters are losing out in the struggle to get in and out of the city, the streets are filthy, and the schools so bad that the young perhaps wisely stay away, and the hoodlums roll citizens for some of the dollars they saved in the tax cut.”

“If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error.”

“If it is dangerous to suppose that government is always right, it will sooner or later be awkward for public administration if most people suppose that it is always wrong.”

“In all life one should comfort the afflicted, but verily, also, one should afflict the comfortable, and especially when they are comfortably, contentedly, even happily wrong.”

“In any great organization it is far, far safer to be wrong with the majority than to be right alone.” “In economics, the majority is always wrong.”

“In the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there’s no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof.”

“It is a far, far better thing to have a firm anchor in nonsense than to put out on the troubled seas of thought.”

“Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.”

“Money is a singular thing. It ranks with love as man’s greatest source of joy. And with death as his greatest source of anxiety. Over all history it has oppressed nearly all people in one of two ways: either it has been abundant and very unreliable, or reliable and very scarce.”

“More die in the United States of too much food than of too little.”

“Nothing is so admirable in politics as a short memory.”

“One of the greatest pieces of economic wisdom is to know what you do not know.”

“People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage.”

“Production only fills a void that it has itself created.”

“The conspicuously wealthy turn up urging the character building values of the privation of the poor.”

“The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking.”

“The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.”

“There is certainly no absolute standard of beauty. That precisely is what makes its pursuit so interesting.”

“We are becoming the servants in thought, as in action, of the machine we have created to serve us.”

“Wealth is not without its advantages, and the case to the contrary, although it has often been made, has never proved widely persuasive.”

“What is called a high standard of living consists, in considerable measure, in arrangements for avoiding muscular energy, for increasing sensual pleasure and enhancing caloric intake above any conceivable nutritional requirement.”

“When people are the least sure, they are often the most dogmatic.”

“Where humor is concerned there are no standards – no one can say what is good or bad, although you can be sure that everyone will.”

“You will find that the State is the kind of organization which, though it does big things badly, does small things badly, too.”

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About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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