John Kenneth Galbraith Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

Intellectual Journey: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom; Conversation with John Kenneth Galbraith, 3/27/86 by Harry Kreisler

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Intellectuals in Government

Your comment about writing speeches suggests another problem that I want to probe -- academics in government. When are they most useful in government? How are they usefully deployed?

Oh, I don't think there is any special role. Lawyers, professors, businessmen, I believe that one of the strengths of American democracy is that we draw liberally from all professions, from all sources. I wouldn't assign any special role to academics. I don't like that word "academics" incidentally, they're academic people.

But when one thinks about the Roosevelt era, one thinks of all of these scholars and social scientists going to Washington and one has a greater sense of the success of the effort than one did, for example, during the Kennedy period, the whole group as opposed to one or another individual.

Well, there were academic people that came in with Eisenhower. My next-door neighbor and longtime friend, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, was closely associated, of all people, with Richard Nixon. And there were others. I would be reluctant to single out the New Deal as a particularly strong example of academic participation. There was a great deal of academic participation, but there was a great deal of participation of lawyers, George Wall came in from the law, Adlai Stevenson came in from the law, Harry Hopkins came in from the New York State apparatus, and so forth. What was unique, what was original in that period, was an addressing of the economic problem. A strong attack on the economic problem, the NRA, the AAA, the various work agencies and so forth. And these naturally attracted economists to Washington. And this was particularly true of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, which was run by economists. But that was a consequence of an administration that was first addressing in a major way an economic problem.

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