William F. Buckley
The public Galbraith I knew and contended with for many years is captured in the opening paragraphs of my review of his last book, "The Culture of Contentment." I wrote then:

It is fortunate for Professor Galbraith that he was born with singular gifts as a writer. It is a pity he hasn't used these skills in other ways than to try year after year to bail out his sinking ships. Granted, one can take satisfaction from his anti-historical exertions, and wholesome pleasure from his yeomanry as a sump-pumper. Indeed, his rhythm and grace recall the skills we remember having been developed by Ben-Hur, the model galley slave, whose only request of the quartermaster was that he be allowed every month to move to the other side of the boat, to ensure a parallel development in the musculature of his arms and legs.

I for one hope that the next time a nation experimenting with socialism or communism fails, which will happen the next time a nation experiments with socialism or communism, Ken Galbraith will feel the need to explain what happened. It's great fun to read. It helps, of course, to suppress wistful thought about those who endured, or died trying, the passage toward collective living to which Professor Galbraith has beckoned us for over 40 years.

So it is said, for the record; and yet we grieve, those of us who knew him. We looked to his writings for the work of a penetrating mind who turned his talent to the service of his ideals. This involved waging war against men and women who had, under capitalism, made strides in the practice of industry and in promoting the common good. Galbraith denied them the tribute to which they were entitled.

When they went further and offered their intellectual insights, Galbraith was unforgiving. His appraisal of intellectual dissenters from his ideas of the common good derived from the psaltery of his moral catechism, cataloguing the persistence of poverty, the awful taste of the successful classes, and the wastefulness of the corporate and military establishments.

William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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