John Kenneth Galbraith

  • Truman by Roy Jenkins
    Collins, 220 pp, £12.95, February 1986, ISBN 0 00 217584 3

The most sordid, even depraved literature of our time, soft-core pornography possibly apart, is the political memoir or biography. In the United States these are now rushed to the press within a few weeks of the individual’s having left or been ejected from office, this in the hope of beating the benign and ineluctable forces that are returning the individual to the obscurity for which nature intended him. A socially adverse public record is, on the whole, advantageous. The more felonious associates of Richard Nixon were unquestionably enhanced as authors by their criminality. However, this is not essential: Mr David Stockman, President Reagan’s first Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the OMB, has been offered a million or so for the rendering of his tenure in public office. This latter involved no known larceny or perversion of law: Mr Stockman gained fame for the single-minded determination with which he cut social services for the poor in order to promote tax relief for the adequately or extremely affluent – a case of financial incentive rewarding the giving of financial incentives, as they are called.

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