John Kenneth Galbraith

John Kenneth Galbraith
A “mischievous man”1 in whose views we have faith,
Who kicks at the pricks 2 and who strikes the right chord
And who tells us the “market” is “innocent fraud”3.
Who points out investor control is a sham,
And that those with the power don't give a goddam,
As long as the salary merry-go-round
Rewards them with figures that simply astound.
“X” is paid zillions, we have to compete.
It's the global economy,” is the conceit.
So onwards and upwards rises the kitty
Of functionaries chairing a simple committee.

For those who enjoy these huge monetary lures
Have seldom, in fact, been true entrepreneurs.
They look good, say “yes”, and are good diplomats,
And have stabbed in the back like true bureaucrats.
They play the right cards, their manner is brisk,
But not once in their lives have they taken a risk.
They're never accountable, seldom pay tax,
And you cannot get at them by phone or by fax.
They're first-rate at giving employees the chop,
But that's about all, as they glide to the top.

The world's worked unfairly from long, long ago,
It's the people you smooge with and not what you know.
Who is to say that a private jet plane
Can be quite reconciled with shareholder gain?
Why do we shrug when “leaders” who fail
Get a free ticket to walk out of jail?
Why do we tolerate thinking short-term,
When it undermines shareholders, workers and firm?
How can the CEO move frequently,
Leaving trails of destruction at each company?
And what, if it comes to that, sets him apart
From a government worker who tries and is smart?
Who looks good, says “yes”, is a good diplomat,
And who stabs in the back like a true bureaucrat?
Damn all (as per Galbraith). So why has he made
A hundred times more than a pen-pusher's paid?

October 2004

1Quote from Howard Davies's Guardian review of The Economics of Innocent Fraud by John Kenneth Galbraith, 7 August 2004.

2A biblical reference, of course.

3As 1 above. To paraphrase Davies, Galbraith believes that the phrase “the market system” is meaningless and simply used to avoid the word “capitalism”, which is less acceptable to the public.