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“The Military Power and the Larger Complex,” Dr. John Kenneth Galbraith

October 14, 1986

Video: “The Military Power and the Larger Complex” 

1:06:42 - Abstract | Biography


Graham B. Spanier: Thank you for bearing with us as we deal with all of the problems of modern technology up here. We've introduced an additional one tonight inasmuch as our speaker is one of the tallest speakers we will ever have at this university, and we have many innovations on this podium to test that out in case we ever have anyone of this stature again. I noticed the news release that our public information office sent out, Dr. Galbraith, which took great care in informing the news media that, should they want to interview you, they might very well send their tallest reporters so they could extend the microphone up high enough to reach you.

I'm pleased to add my welcome to all of you to the 5th annual Ava Helen Pauling Lectureship for World Peace. The lecture was established by Dr. Linus Pauling as an annual commemoration of his late wife, and he presented the first lecture in the fall of 1982. Other speakers in this series have been: Paul Warnke, Helen Caldicott, and George Ball. This, then, is the fifth year of the lecture series, and I would like to mention one important development during the past year here at Oregon State. On October 18th, 1985, a Peace Studies certificate program was officially approved for Oregon State University. It is an interdisciplinary program in the College of Liberal Arts, and is already well-recognized in the West, and we are very proud to have that here.

Before I introduce this year's distinguished speaker, I would like to acknowledge the presence in the audience of Dr. Linus Pauling, one of Oregon State's most distinguished graduates and the individual to whom we are grateful for the opportunity of this lectureship. Also with Dr. Pauling today is his daughter, Linda Pauling Kamb. She is visiting us from Pasadena, California. Another most significant development of this past year is Dr. Pauling's donation of his papers to Oregon State University, something that will enrich our campus and will provide opportunities for scholars from around the world.

John Kenneth Galbraith, the Paul M. Warburg Professor of Economics Emeritus at Harvard University, is a Ph. D. in economics from the University of California. He was a Social Science Research Council fellow at the University of Cambridge, and has taught at California and Princeton, as well at Harvard. As Deputy Administrator of the Office of Price Administration in the early 1940s, he was principally responsible for organizing the wartime system of price control, which he headed until 1943. He was later a director of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, which investigated the effects of the air attacks on Germany and Japan in World War II, served in 1946 in the State Department in charge of economic affairs in the occupied countries, and was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Harry S. Truman. Galbraith was with Adlai Stevenson in his 1952 and 1956 campaigns, and was an early supporter of John F. Kennedy, serving on Kennedy's convention staff. During these years he was the chairman of the Economic Advisory Committee of the Democratic Advisory Council. During the Kennedy administration, he was the U.S. Ambassador to India, and has been variously associated with many other democratic administrations as an advisor. A former editor of Fortune, his most recent book is The Anatomy of Power, published in 1983. His other recent volumes include: The Nature of Mass Poverty, The Voice of the Poor, and his memoirs, A Life in Our Times. Some of his earlier well-known titles are The Affluent Society, The New Industrial State, Money: Whence It Came, Where It Went, and The Age of Uncertainty. All have been widely translated. They are used in economics, business, and politics courses in colleges and universities throughout the world. Professor Galbraith is a past president of the American Economic Association and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1982 he was elected for literature to the 50 member American Academy of Arts and Letters, where he was given the chair previously held by the late Archibald MacLeish, and in 1984 he became president of the combined American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

Oregon State University welcomes you, Professor Galbraith. [6:08]

John Kenneth Galbraith: Mr. Chairman, Dr. Pauling, my friends - Let me tell you, first of all, of my pleasure at that introduction, which is true, and my very great pleasure in being here under the auspices of Linus Pauling, who has done more to brighten our lives and protect our lives than any other man alive or any other man of our generation. I'm just extraordinarily pleased, Linus, to be given the chance to give this lecture in your name. I'm also wonderfully pleased to be in the tradition of my predecessors in these lectures: Helen Caldicott, who has done more to alert the world to the dangers of nuclear devastation than any other person; Paul Warnke, who has done more to intervene wisely, shrewdly, and effectively on arms control; and perhaps my closest friend in the world, George Ball, who was here last year, and who reminds me, I must say, I was telling this to some friends earlier today or yesterday, who reminds me of, if I might take an anecdotal moment, of what used to be involved in summit conferences, of which I will have a word to say later this evening.

In 1945, George Ball and I were both in Germany assessing the effects of the air attacks on Germany, to which earlier mention has been made. I was at our headquarters in Bad Nauheim, a few miles north of Frankfurt, when I got a telephone call from George, who was someplace else - I don't know where, and he said, "Do you realize that the great men of Europe and of the United States - President Truman, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin - are going to meet next week in Potsdam to settle the future of Europe?"

I said, "I do, George. I read the newspapers."

He said, "I think we should attend."

I felt myself a little struck by that, and I said, "My goodness, George. We haven't been invited."

He said, "If we allow hurt feelings to stand in the way of our attending, we'll only multiply the original error of not inviting us."

So after some discussion, we met later in the week or early in the next week. We had an old airplane, which almost shook when it flew - an old DC-3 Dakota. We flew to Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, got transportation out - not to Potsdam, but to where the Potsdam Conference was actually held and where the people were actually billeted, which was in Babelsberg, but that had to be suppressed - you could not have a Babelsberg Conference. And, I must say, with some misgivings - I, at least, had them - presented ourselves at the gate, said we had come to the summit conference, and the guard at the gate said, "Alright, go ahead." That was all there was to it. I found inside an old friend of mine, Isadore Lubin, who was head of the Reparations Commission. He was glad to see me - made me a member of the Reparations Commission. George Ball joined the Commission having to do with the discussion of the future of Europe, and that is all it takes to attend a summit conference. It is my impression, actually, that things have become more complicated since, and I don't recommend that any of you follow that same experiment. [11:00]

There comes a time - if I might get back to somewhat more solemn matters - there comes a time in the troubled course of human affairs when I think we should step back occasionally, and examine - what shall I say? - the fundamental concepts by which our public attitudes and our public policies are guided. I'm persuaded that this is the sort of thing we should now be doing as regards the weapons race. No one could look at the present position with satisfaction. The two great powers now deploy weapons - we all agree, both sides - of unimaginable destructive power. And both plan, incontinently, for yet more, and for weapons systems of ever more perilous computer control and hair-trigger tendency.

Meanwhile, in these past couple of years the negotiators have come together in Geneva. They talk for a few days, and then for weeks or months they adjourn. This arms control negotiations have become one of the world's most leisured occupations. Differences, when they assemble, are aired and emphasized, but are not compromised or resolved. This is more nearly appropriate than we realize. The negotiators are really minor figures, subordinate to a higher and controlling authority, of which I am going to speak this evening, and that is to the overriding military power. In consequence, from these negotiations, in our realistic moments, we no longer expect any real step back from the peril - the peril under which our children and the planet itself live in suspension of death. And we have not reason to be greatly more encouraged when these negotiations move up, as they did this past week, to a summit meeting where there were hours of talk and, again, nothing was accomplished.

The sticking point was not one that we can accept as having any validity. The sticking point was whether we should proceed with "Star Wars," the weaponry in space, a protective blanket over the United States. We refused to make that negotiable in face of the fact that the great, the enormous weight of scientific and technical opinion in our country holds that, among other things, it will not work. The question arises [as to] why the Soviets are so concerned about something that they know will not work, although they argue that there might be a first strike capability in dropping some of these weapons out of the system, and why we should grasp on something which, as I said, is not thought to be technically [or] scientifically possible. There is a broad statement from Washington, [with] some support from the Pentagon, that the only really true believer in the possibility and feasibility of "Star Wars" is the President of the United States.

The condition behind this disastrous charade, a term which I use deliberately, is one which I would like to persuade you this evening [that] we must now accept. It is that the military power has, on both sides, become an independent force in the superpower relationship. The arms negotiations and the summit are not meant even to limit and reduce the threat of nuclear devastation. They have become a cover for the larger expression of the larger military power. They are now a design, not for removing the threat of nuclear devastation, but for quieting public fear of nuclear war. There is now an interacting dynamic that serves the military of both of the great powers. Each takes the action that produces the responding action in the other country. This one country must do because it is what the other does, or what the other is thought to intend to do. Thus, each of the military powers built on the other, and so on to infinity and the eventual catastrophe. [16:50]

The question I want to ask this evening: what is this military power and what are the sources of its strength? This first source to strengthen the military power in our country is the belief that any government, any governmental instrument, is naturally subject to democratic process. This belief that any governmental action is subject to democratic process is strong in our rhetoric. It is what our children are still taught in school, but it is something, as regards the military, that no informed citizen can really, any longer, believe. The modern military establishment and the organization it controls, the money it deploys, the captive politicians it commands, the scientific community that it subsidizes, and under the cloak of patriotism that protects it, has become a polar force in its own right. The military services, the defense department civilians, [and] the serving industries now employ about six and a half million people and generate over $146 billion in business to private enterprise. The military power, with these resources, has come to embrace the civilian authority to which legally and constitutionally it is presumed to be subject. Does anybody really think the Secretary of Defense, or Mr. Richard Perle, or the President are sternly in command of the military establishment in the United States, or don't we agree that they have very largely become its protectors, its spokesmen, and its servants?

Leaving off, [it] was over a quarter of a century ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of the danger of the acquisition of power, deliberately or because of neglect, by what he called, coining a phrase, the "military industrial complex." I quote him: "In the councils of government," he said, "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." End of the Eisenhower quotation. President Eisenhower could not, were he to return, think his fear unnecessary. Last January on the 25th anniversary of that warning, there was a major assemblage of concerned individuals - businessmen, scholars, politicians, citizens-at-large - to remember what Eisenhower had said. And I think none of those so gathered could have thought that, as they look at the present situation, Dwight D. Eisenhower's warning is unmerited.

I don't speak with equal authority on the power of the military in the Soviet Union. There it will be said, and is said with no slight emphasis, just as we say here in the United States, that it is under full control, wholly subject to the larger authority of the socialist state. Alas, no great organization, no massive bureaucratic structure is ever without power. This is not in the nature of great bureaucracy. It is not in its nature to submit passively to external control, or to fail to assert its claims in society. And certainly, the interacting dynamic serves the military purpose in the U.S.S.R. as it does here in the United States. [21:30]

I hope you hear the tinkle of that ice water as I pour it. I was taking part in a symposium a year or so ago in Bloomington, Indiana, and I shared the platform with - I think I'll leave his name out - a senator from the Deep South whose combined eloquence was of deeply retarded mental capacity. Halfway through, his voice gave out and he called for water and he got a tinkling glass of ice water, which made him very angry and he said, "Don't you all know that ice water is very bad for the vocal cords?" And I sat there, sharing with an audience this size the thought of what a wonderful thing ice water could be.

There are two other consequences of the rise and awesome triumph of this interacting military power that are also evident, and let me now turn to those two further consequences. There is, first, the need of any military power for an enemy - for a plausible enemy. In the absence of such an enemy, both the influence of the military power and, more pertinently, perhaps, its financial support are gravely at risk.

The second is the need to contend with the main threat to the military power in our time, and that threat is the deep, even urgent, public fear that modern nuclear weaponry, by its nature, arouses. In all countries, and not least here in the United States, there is a strong idea - a strong resistance - to the idea of nuclear euthanasia. It's not really popular. So, just as the military power must have a plausible enemy, so also it must have a plausible design for countering or containing this public fear. This is what arms control negotiations now principally accomplish.

But first let me talk about the need for an enemy. The United States, in the last century, and again in the years between the World Wars, had no plausible military adversary. In consequence, the military establishment had only a negligible claim on power and resources. Our army, in that period, was about on a par with the army of Portugal. This is a condition that, since World War II, has been remedied. In recent years, enemies have been manifestly more available, or have been made more available. China, until it was promoted to its present role as an honorary bastion of free enterprise, so served. Twenty-five years ago when I was with the state department, the Secretary of State spoke feelingly of the threat of China, of the "Yellow Tide," he said, armed with nuclear weapons, spreading over all of Asia - the "New Atomic Yellow Peril." North Vietnam, Cuba, and Nicaragua have also been enemies, [and] Grenada, and now we have Colonel Gaddafi and Libya. [25:58]

But, overwhelmingly and durably, the plausible enemy has been the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union, in other words, is indispensable to the military power here in the United States. Tension in our relation with the Soviets directly [and] overtly serves that power. Any relaxation of tension would be specifically damaging to the resources that the Pentagon commands. From this comes a further fact of our time. That is the cultivation of tension in order to support the military power. Military appropriations were once in response to external threat. Let us not now be in doubt, action and response have been reversed. External threat is now in the service of military appropriations and weapons development.

Once again, I don't identify this grim development peculiarly with the United States. The charge that the United States poses a grave imperialist threat to the world comes regularly from the Soviet Union. There is recurrent mention of sinister capitalist intention.

In both countries, we live perilously in a world where tension and hostility serve military purpose and power. They serve it, let us note, in a world where a basic presumption that underlies the very word, "superpower," is now strongly in question. That presumption is of a relentless extension of power by the Soviet Union and the United States - in the Soviet Union, as I've just said, of unfulfilled imperialist ambition by the United States, and in the accepted American view of a relentless expansionism to a world socialist domination by the U.S.S.R. Expansionism is a word that has come strongly into use in recent times - expansionism meaning, like all "isms," something very bad. And what is the highly evident reality? It is the powerful and successful desire on the part of all countries of the world, without exception, to assert and preserve their independence from the superpowers - to be free of superpower influence and control.

This, over the last 25 years, has been the Soviet experience in China in the enormous fact of the break apart of the two great communist countries. [It has been their] experience in Egypt, where the Soviets were thrown out, and Algeria and Ghana. Also in Indonesia. And a weakening of Soviet authority in visible measure in Eastern Europe. Ethiopia, Mozambique, and South Yemen still are within the Soviet sphere, and does anybody suppose that they are masterpieces of the socialist achievement? I must say, not wholly parenthetically, that Marx would have been appalled at the idea of socialism in Ethiopia at that stage of development.

Similarly, the thrust for independence is or has been our own experience. Twenty-five years ago, we could call almost automatically on the support of the Latin American countries. Now, no longer. We have been notably rejected in Iran [and] elsewhere in the Middle East, and we have been dramatically and sadly rejected in Indochina, particularly in Vietnam.

Nevertheless, in face of these massive retreats, Soviet spokesmen still speak of the American imperialist design, and we speak of the relentless Soviet thrust to world domination. The purpose, I cannot think in doubt. The imagery of socialist and imperialist expansion serves the military power in both countries. The hard fact of universal retreat must be kept subordinate to the military need for presumed expansion. So, I summarize: Our present situation is not military need in response to tension and hostility. It is tension and hostility in the service of military need. [31:12]

Let me come now to the role of arms control. International tranquility is not the only threat to the military power. In the age of nuclear alarm and terror, there is also the threat imposed by the massive popular concern and reaction. As I earlier said, there is, and not surprisingly, a strong public concern for continued existence. This has made itself evident in recent times in the freeze movement, which alarmingly invaded the preserve of the nuclear arms control theologians, and in the pressure for a comprehensive test ban, and in the peace movement in general.

This popular reaction was greatly encouraged in the early years of the present administration, and I want to give credit where credit is due. This popular reaction was greatly encouraged by compulsive talk in Washington of the strategy tactics and survival in nuclear war, talk of the acceptability of nuclear war, of prevailing in nuclear war, of the strategy for fighting a protracted nuclear war. These all helped arouse public concern for the issue of arms control.

There were also, I must add, some notably insane suggestions as to how individuals and communities might survive nuclear war. I quote: "With a thrown-down door and enough earth on top, almost everyone will make it." That was from a civil defense authority in Washington.

In my own city of Cambridge a couple of years ago, we had a civil defense advisory saying that in the event of a threat of nuclear war, we should all get in our automobiles and go to Greenfield, Massachusetts, a pleasant town about a hundred miles west. Nobody was troubled by that, but there was a strong adverse reaction to the suggestion that we should take our credit cards with us. This stirred the Cambridge city council out of its normal preoccupation with tax assessments and condominium conversions and rent control, and it somewhat optimistically declared Cambridge a nuclear-free zone, paving the way for similar action here in Oregon...I assume.

I've been sufficiently in the Soviet Union to know that the same sensitivity to the threat of nuclear war exists very strongly in the Russian mind - perhaps more so than it does here in the United States. Twice in this century, Russia has been massively the victim of war. We have not been victims of war, generally, since the Civil War, and in the Northwestern United States we have not been the victim ever. I was born a good many years ago in Canada and went to Canadian public schools, where we were not impressed with the terrible slaughter of the American Revolution. Concord and Lexington were, then, described in the Canadian textbooks as frontier riots. Russians see themselves as victims in the war. We think of ourselves instinctively as the people who escape.

Contemplating death, all people resort to psychological denial. This we do where nuclear war is concerned. We turn our minds to happier prospects. In further consequence, the nuclear theologians are maintained by this in their monopoly of the arms control issue. I must say, this monopoly is an extraordinary thing. We would not, here in this republic, readily delegate power over taxes, and yet we are rather relieved to delegate power over death. This delegation we must withdraw. Psychological denial we must be aware of and we must reject. We must see and emphasize, east and west, the peril to which we are subject. We must see arms negotiation not as a way of quieting fear, but as a step to eliminating the causes of fear. [36:42]

Now I come to what are the avenues of escape - what are the things, affirmatively, that we do. The first need, and this is perhaps rather redundant to say in light of what I have just said, is for a full acceptance of the role of the military power in our time. We must recognize that the military power has invaded and escaped ordinary democratic process. The answer, in our case, is, however, not less democracy. It is full and effective democracy. Nothing so demonstrates and serves the military power as the tendency of people to avoid the subject and somehow avoid all responsibility and blame for the other side - our side - of the interacting dynamic.

We must, as the next step, be completely aware of how hostility and tension serve the military power. Here in the United States we must enlist both public opinion and democratic process in seeking to reduce that tension. We must have politicians who react powerfully against those who cultivate tension. We must vigorously expose the purpose it serves.

Speaking on these matters before an audience in Germany earlier this year, which had a strong delegation from the Soviet Union, I didn't hesitate to add that I hoped for the same restraint on their side. But I should hope, as an American, that we might set an example in this regard. There is no harm or weakness in being the example of the steps that reduce tension, that move toward tranquility.

I think we must surely conclude that our public leaders have sufficiently indicated to the Soviets that they are less than approving of the Soviet economic system. Repetition of this point is unneeded. We need not to advise them any further of the evilness of their evil empire. And as I say, I would like, whenever mentioning this, to appeal to the leaders of the Soviet Union, for similar restraint on speech and action.

Next, let us recognize one of the great facts of our time. It is that the nations of the world do not want to be ruled or guided by the great powers, as, in courtesy, they are still called. If we accept that, it will ensure that there will be no collision of American and Soviet policy in Nicaragua, Angola, the Middle East, or Ethiopia. In independence, the people of these countries will not all be well and democratically governed. They will not all be happy and free. But it is not for us, as it is not for the Soviets, to alter that fate. And this is again something on which I would hope we might take the lead.

I would like to see us also, parenthetically, have the strongest possible effort by other countries, and welcome the effort by other countries - by Canadians, Western Europeans, Latin Americans - to urge against and seek to minimize conflict and tension - the conflict and tension that so serve the military power. To reduce tension is not a task for the United States and the Soviet Union alone. It is for all governments and all people. [41:12]

I returned just a few weeks ago from the meeting of the Five Continent Peace Initiative of Argentina, Tanzania, India, Sweden, and Mexico at the meeting of the leaders of all those countries in Ixtapa in Mexico. And I was there to stress that the points that I have just made should be part of the effort of all countries, and I think the response to that urging was, on the whole, favorable. In fact, it was very favorable.

Finally, having reduced the tension that serves it [and] having come otherwise to terms with the military power, we must, of course, have effective action on arms control. The first step is to arrest the dynamic by which American arms action serves the military power and their response serves ours. Accordingly, the first step is to accept the ban on nuclear testing and I think we should all have a sense of outrage that we have not responded on that. And let us have the freeze on nuclear deployment and development as the step beyond the acceptance of the comprehensive test ban, and let us go on from there.

In asking for effective understandable progress on arms control, I go back to something I said earlier. We must not hesitate to call the present charade a "charade." And we must call those so engaged and their principals to full political account.

And we must not assume, my friends, that we have accomplished anything, much as I would like to believe it - not when we have made speeches on this subject, or even, suffering as you do, you have listened to speeches on this subject. We must go on to the only recourse in a democracy and make sure, in the next election and forthcoming elections, that we do not return to Washington any people who are not committed to the reduction of the military power, who are not committed to the comprehensive test ban, [and] who are not committed to the freeze on the production and deployment of nuclear weapons. In other words, we must use our political resource, every one of us, individually and through our neighbors and in every possible way, to make this the strongest political issue of our time.

I say this in Oregon, where I am fully aware of the debt that we owe to Oregon leadership - to Mark Hatfield on this particular matter. I wouldn't dream of resorting to a political expression except on behalf of a conservative Republican.

On our side, as one hopes on the Soviet side, let us move to reduce the military claim on the economy and on government budgets. This acts directly to reduce the military power. It sacrifices nothing as to defense in an age of reciprocal overkill. It will also - no slight matter - have a strongly beneficial effect on our economic life. The German Federal Republic and Japan have been the two great economic success stories since World War II. Both Japan and West Germany have used resources in far lesser measure than have we for sterile military purpose, and they have used far more of their resources for capital or civilian industry. This is not a theoretical judgment. The hard practical evidence, especially in the case of Japan, is for all to see. [46:17]

And I do not think, in another important point, that the transition to a rational use of economic resources would be difficult or traumatic. We have an enormous reserve of unused need [and] of unmet need in our cities in what has come to be called - I hate the term - the "infrastructure" of our roads, our transportation system, our lower cost housing, [and] our educational system, all of which stand in desperate need of the resources that we are now committing to sterile military purpose. I must say I am disturbed by the number of intelligent people who believe that the modern economy is somehow sustained by military spending and would collapse without it.

Once again, let us be aware of the military power in our time. I repeat that again because I urge that we not fear to speak of it - that we appreciate fully the interacting dynamic to which I have adverted.

And let us not, as a source of tension with the Soviet Union, any longer have a polemical battle as to which side is most to blame for the interaction. That only serves the military purpose. The United States and the Soviet Union have now lived together peacefully, if not always amicably, for almost 70 years. We can conclude, surely, from this circumstance, that capitalism and socialism can coexist. But they cannot and will not coexist if they yield to the military power and to the dynamic that controls now this relationship. And in the eventual nuclear collision, premeditated or unpremeditated, neither capitalism nor socialism will survive. Both of these are highly sophisticated systems, which will not survive a nuclear war. No one, not even the most talented ideologue, will be able to tell the ashes of capitalism from the ashes of communism, although I'm moved to say that I think there are one or two people in Washington who will want to try.

I've come back again to urge political involvement and political action. That is our basic resource in this matter. And I conclude by reading you a few lines. I mentioned earlier the meeting in Ixtapa a few weeks ago. One of the people attending was Sir Gabriel García Márquez, the great Columbian literary figure and Nobel Prize winner, and here is how he concluded his comments on one of the days that meeting. He said:

"The growing suspicion that Earth is the only place within the solar system to have given forth the prodigious adventure of life drives us relentlessly to a disheartening conclusion: the arms race goes against intelligence itself. And not only human intelligence, but the very intelligence of nature, whose end eludes even the clear-sightedness of poetry. Three hundred and eighty million years were necessary that a butterfly should learn to fly, another hundred and eighty million to devise a rose, with no other duty than to be beautiful, and four geological eras that humans should be able to out-sing the birds and die for love. In the golden age of science, it does no honor to the talents of mankind to have conceived the means by which a multi-millenarian process, so bountiful and colossal should return to the nothingness from whence it came through the simple art of pushing a button."

Thank you very much. [51:14]

Graham B. Spanier: Dr. Galbraith has agreed to take a few questions. He's asked that I field the questions and repeat them before he answers. He will be answering, however - not me.

Audience Member: What you're saying is somewhat different from what a group of distinguished Harvard people have been saying on TV for some time. I wondered whether you would care to comment on that?

Spanier: The question is: Would Dr. Galbraith comment on the differences between his thinking and the thinking of some other Harvard commentators recently that have been heard on television.

John Kenneth Galbraith: I'm still an ardent supporter of the first amendment even when my colleagues are wrong. There is an academic tradition to which we are somewhat subject in Cambridge that requires that if anybody comes out for the truth, somebody must also speak out for the error, and that the truth then comes halfway between. If you're going to have somebody oppose nuclear war, you must have somebody come along to be in favor of it. And that is the mood of the book to which you are adverting, and I have criticized it on my home grounds.

Audience Member: I agree with much of what you've said, but I think that some of what you've said disagrees with itself, and I'd like you to respond to this and acknowledge the now 14 months of the Soviet test moratorium, which does not sound like two equally evil superpowers competing for world domination. And I think that maybe the missing link may be that there is no corporate profit structure in the Soviet Union.

Spanier: The question concerns a possible contradiction in his comments and he's asking if you would comment on that in relation to a missing corporate power structure in the Soviet Union.

Galbraith: No, there was no internal contradiction in my remarks. They were thoroughly logical from beginning to end.

I want to, in talking about the interacting dynamic, I want to see that there are forces on both sides which I believe, but the point that you raise, that the Russians have now for 14 months foregone tests and we haven't - there's something that's very much on your side, but it was something I don't think I entirely avoided mentioning. And if I didn't sufficiently emphasize it, I beg your indulgence.

Audience Member: That was the contradiction. You mentioned that, but you also claimed that they were two equal superpowers.

Galbraith: Oh, no, I didn't establish equality in these matters. I wouldn't even establish equality in living standards.

Spanier: Are you working on another book, and could you tell us about it?

Galbraith: That's a pleasant change in the subject, and it's something to which I'm going to give much more attention tomorrow night. I have a book coming out in two or three weeks called A View From the Stands. The cover jacket of it shows me all alone in the Harvard stadium. It's not a wholly appropriate picture because I've never been in that stadium but once to see a football game. I consider it one of the singular achievements of my life that I have been able to rise above collegiate sports. A View From the Stands is a, if I may use a banking term, a "recycling" of various matters of which I've written over the last 30 years. [56:41]

But a major enterprise on which I'm working is a history of, not of economic thought, but of economics as a subject, showing the extent to which economics is not an independent subject with a history of itself, but as it tends to be, to us to a remarkable extent, an expression of what people, including some of the more affluent of our time, need or prefer to believe.

Audience Member: First, an irrelevant remark, followed by a, perhaps, relevant one. When we were on sabbatical in England, we heard your talk on a wintry night in St. Mary's church, which was not heated, and all of us in the audience had coats turned up and you, as the speaker, wearing a suit, and I'm glad you're more comfortable today.

My question is a secondary one. I see that England tends to support policies that France and Germany may oppose somewhat, and China sort of plays a balancing game between us and Russia. To what extent do you feel that these international networks, political and economical, will help or hurt the cause of peace?

Spanier: To what extent will international political and economic networks affect the extent of peace, and the question cited England's cooperation with us and France's, sometimes, lack of cooperation, and Germany's on some recent issues.

Galbraith: I suppose in a conservative mood, I would keep these networks. We've now had 41 years of peace reflecting the broad structure of networks east and west, and I would rather keep those associations than run the risk of change. I'm not persuaded that we should abandon the notion that if something is working, it can always be readjusted in accordance with some abstract principle. I suppose that's a conservative mood. I always thought we had a good telephone system and I never understood why we had to tear it apart. "If it's working, don't fix it," I believe is the rule. That, you will say, involves continuous support of NATO, and I would, on the whole, do so. Those NATO meetings are not intellectually taxing. Nothing new has been said at one now for 30 years.

And I would worry a little bit at the extent to which present policies, including a certain arrogance of neglect of the political preoccupations of the British, as in the case of that Libyan business [and] the use of those airfields, as in the case of the deployment of medium range missiles as in other matters is alienating substantial parts of the European population [and] I'm sorry to see that happening. [1:01:26]

One more question.

Spanier: We have time for one more question - I think I'd like to ask it if that's alright. I'd like you to comment a little bit further on the recent failure of Reagan and Gorbachev in the summit meeting to reach agreement on some of the issues that you might have hoped for, given your remarks tonight. What do you see lying ahead in that regard?

Galbraith: Well, I must say I think the meeting was rather hastily convened and this was probably a mistake. I hate to find myself in agreement with my old friend...how do you say his name? Bernosky? No that's not it.

Spanier: Oh, Brzezinsky.

Galbraith: Brzezinsky, yes. I had an absolute mental block. I dislike the man so much that it's very difficult. I find myself agreeing with Brzezinsky that it was too hastily convened. I certainly don't find myself agreeing with him, as quoted in this morning's paper, expressing satisfaction that the President resisted the proposal for modifying "Star Wars." This is incredible. As I said earlier, we have agreement that "Star Wars" isn't going to work. If we describe it, and the President has described it, as a bargaining chip, why in the hell wasn't it used as a bargaining chip. This I can't understand.

But we must bear in mind that, as I've mentioned before in a class this afternoon, that summit meetings, we should always recognize, have a substantial symbolic role. I've attended a certain number of them other than that one at Potsdam, and the significant feature is that principals have difficulty in agreeing because if they're principals, the agreement is final. If it comes up through the organization, there is always possibility of second thoughts. There aren't if it's between the two primary figures. So for that reason, one should not expect too much of a summit meeting.

My mind goes back to meetings between Indian leaders and American leaders - one particularly, this is not quite a summit meeting - between Nehru and Lyndon Johnson, 1961. It went on for a couple of hours and neither one could think of anything that he could put forth that the other one might agree to for which he had authority to decide. This was particularly true of LBJ, but even Nehru was very reluctant to commit himself. After about two hours of the most arduous negotiation, they both discovered that they were both in favor of rural electrification, and that went on then for a good half-hour of enthusiastic agreement on rural electrification. I was also saying earlier I had the task of writing the communiqué on that, and it perhaps wasn't accidental - I had lots of time as ambassador - that after I finished that communiqué, I discovered I had such a talent for fiction that I went ahead and wrote a novel. This is the nature of summit meetings, which one should think of as having symbolic, rather than substantive, effect.

This is not to say for a moment that we shouldn't make the effort, and it's not to say for a moment that we should react with any satisfaction to what happened in Iceland. I'm frank to say that I think we should have bargained on SDI. This is something which, for a variety of reasons, we could certainly have given way on. [1:06:31]


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