“Good writing … is especially important in a subject such as economics. It is not enough to explain. The images that are in the mind of the writer must be made to reappear in the mind of the reader, and it is the absence of this ability that causes much economic writing to be condemned, quite properly, as abstract.” – John Kenneth Galbraith
From time-to-time students will ask why they have to take a “writing” class, when they’re planning to go into business, mathematics, computers, or economics. I say to them, make writing the foundation of ANY career choice.
It also was the mantra of Galbraith (born in October, 1908), the economist, public official, and diplomat, who taught economics for decades at Harvard and also served as a U.S. Ambassador to India in the Kennedy administration. His books on economic topics were bestsellers from the 1950s through the 2000s, during which time he also filled the unofficial role of “public intellectual.” A prolific author, he wrote four dozen books, including several novels, and published more than a thousand articles and essays.
In 1977, he wrote the scripts for the major PBS and BBC Television series on economics – The Age of Uncertainty – a series I highly recommend for its clarity and – as it turned out – prophetic insights. It went on air in 38 countries. “One of the greatest pieces of economic wisdom,” Galbraith once noted, “is to know what you do not know.”
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