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Remembering John Kenneth Galbraith

When my father, Paul Sweezy, died at the end of February 2004, John Kenneth Galbraith, or Ken, as he preferred to be called, invited my mother to gather her children and come talk. He told us that the New York Timesand other newspapers had called to interview him for Paul’s obituary but he had declined. He felt bad about doing so, but he said, their questions focused on political differences and that is not what he wanted to say about Paul.

Ken met Paul at Harvard in the 1930s when, as he told us that day, he was a young agricultural economist from Canada and Paul was “the golden boy” of the economics department. Paul left Harvard after the war and we lived in New Hampshire. During the McCarthy years Paul was called before the local Un-American Activities Committee run by New Hampshire’s “red-hunting ” attorney general. Paul was convicted of contempt when he refused to speak about anyone but himself. As his case made its way to the Supreme Court an FBI agent stood in the woods across the street recording the license plates of those who came and went from our house and the Galbraiths were among those who came.

Ken liked to advertise his aversion to humility but he should be remembered for his generosity and his intense personal loyalty. He joked about admiring himself yet he was abundant in his admiration of others. Ken once drew me aside at a social event in the 1980s to tell me that Paul was a “great man” whose contribution would last. He also had a prodigious fondness for Paul Baran and loved to tell stories about their escapades together during the Second World War. Ken was a consistent supporter of Monthly Review, donating money every year as well as helping out in other small ways whenever asked. He stayed in contact with my father right to the end of his life. Monthly Review has lost a friend.

Martha Sweezy

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