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Opinions of Sunday, 5 July 2015

Columnist: Baidoo, Philip Kobina

Nkrumahism, The Can Of Worms I Opened – Galbraith Another Failed Prophet

John Kenneth Galbraith is one of the leftist academics that I mentioned their names in one of my previous essays to make a point. And quite obviously, Mr Kwarteng who consistently tries to prove that he is the master of all that he surveys took a bite, but spat it out without making a mess of himself. He said I did not critique his work, which I will do him the honours now. Strangely, though I did not critique the work of Ehrlich, Rachel Carson and Al Gore in the said essay he had so much to say about the work of those liars, yet did not have anything to utter on Galbraith, which exposes his duplicity. So I am now throwing him a rope and watch him strangle himself. The intellectual achievements of Galbraith were without question. He was a professor of economics at Harvard – one of America’s eminent Ivy League universities. His academic credentials were impeccable. He received about 19 honorary degrees from various institutions around the world.

I first came across him on a BBC programme on the American 30s economic depression. I straight away fell in love with his rich, booming, commanding and mesmerising voice. I am convinced that when you listen to him without any knowledge of the subject he talks about you will think that you are listening to God. His sense of certainty is unimpeachable; he leaves you no room for doubt. And there is one thing that sets him apart from those leftist icons. His opponents are caricaturized with withering sarcasm and squelched with a veneer of nifty phrases that send ignorant people wild with laughter and applause.

To start with, I will paint a picture of reality of people in the real world, and not some academic world that tries duplicating their own reality. Now, if a businessman in a capitalist America makes a mistake, or takes a wrong decision he gets the red light from his balance sheet, at least, by the end of the financial year. At the point when he comes to that realisation he has the option to change the status quo, or get eliminated by the market forces. The reality is if he is not using the factors of production efficiently those resources should be reallocated to those who can use it creatively and more cleverly to the benefit of society rather than wasting it. But what happens to these academics that recycle silly ideas? Nothing, and better for them, they get rewarded with prizes that further enhances their reputation in the minds of the gullible public – a typical example is Mr Francis Kwarteng.

Before John Kenneth Galbraith wrote his magnum opus, The New Industrial State (1967), the story of Henry Ford had become part of the American consciousness for decades. Ford, who was a pioneer and controlled a huge segment of the American motor industry wanted to stagnate. He literally sought to dictate to his customers on style and taste, but was forced to change course when rival companies started peeling off his customers by offering multiple choice in colour and stylistic designs. Despite this ubiquitous information being available even to the public let alone an academic, he wrote in his book that, ‘The mature corporation had readily at the means for controlling the prices at which it sells as well as those which it buys.’ And the reason being as he asserted in the book, ‘since General Motors produces some half of all the automobiles its designs do not reflect the current mode, but are the current mode. The proper shape of an automobile, for most people, will be what the automobile maker decree the current shape to be.’ Galbraith was terribly and unforgivably wrong on that. As much as General Motors would have enjoyed the idea of dictating to their clients, by the 1980s after dominating the 60s with half of all the motor sales in America, their share of the market shrunk to a quarter. And I don’t have to tell you where that came from; it was taken straight from Marx’s Das Kapital.

Galbraith literally repeated what Marx talked about in his Das Kapital concerning monopoly that big companies will swallow up small ones to create gigantic super monopolies at the expense of the consumer in his ‘American Capitalism’. This Marx’s prediction has been discredited beyond all reasonable doubt during the 20th century. In a book published in 1932 by Adolf A. Berle and Gardiner Means they followed the footsteps of what Marx wrote that the 200 largest corporations in America were growing faster than all the others and it will take probably till 1969 to take over America’s corporate wealth. In reality, by 1975 the share of America’s biggest 200 corporate wealth fell from 57% in 1933 to 39% in 1975. Not only were they wrong on existing companies taking over everything. New giants like Microsoft, Apple, McDonald’s, Wal-Mart and many more has come along to refute that silly and ridiculous prediction that Berle and Means recycled in 1932 and repeated again by Galbraith in 1952. This was an absolute wrong call. If a capitalist had made such an error in judgement it would have been the end of his fortune. He will come crashing down like a bag of potato. John Kenneth Galbraith did not suffer any loss of reputation for the tripe he borrowed from his High Priest Karl Marx, but rather enhanced. I can assure you Mr Kwarteng will follow up with unadulterated garbage in his praise. Well, of course, they look after their own don’t they?

These people are so ignorant they don’t know that a change in technology can reshuffle all the pawns on the economic chess board. Currently, most of the biggest American companies are in the oil and gas industry. We are currently worried about environmental pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuel. I can bet my dollar there are scientists in various laboratories busy trying to find an alternative to the dirty oil and gas that powers the world economy. Therefore, if the technology that powers human civilisation changes, all the oil companies that rank at the top will be decimated in no time. They will surely be replaced by new companies that will scramble to apply the new technology.

If any of you could remember in the late 90s there was a portable music playing device called mini disc. That technology did not make any waves, because it was quickly supplanted by the MP3 technology, which has been dominated by the Apple ipod. Though the Apple ipod is a classic brand that most people will like to have, however, the market is saturated with uncountable MP3 brands. You can even have them on your cell phone. As much as Apple will like to charge the highest price the market could bear, if I they will permit me to use their phraseology, they couldn’t. Because there comes a time when even the ardent fun gets fed up and will choose an alternative. It is competition that breaks the back of monopoly and not the power of government like what Clinton tried to inflict on Microsoft in the 90s.

Galbraith’s perception and attitude towards society and business is a classic example of what happens when exceptionally smart people have very tunnelled vision about their views of the world. They do not rationalise all possibilities. Roman power died in the coliseum, and that of the British sank beneath the waves. The American power, as we know it, will not go on indefinitely; it will come to an end. It is a fact of life, and this is what happens in every human endeavour including businesses in a capitalist economy. Monopoly can only be maintained with the help of the government; no individual company can achieve that on their own. Thank you.

Philip Kobina Baidoo Jnr