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A Nosegay Of Galbraithisms

July 2024
2min read

In a democracy, one should scrupulously avoid using influence except when it is needed. I have noticed that people who are called upon rather like it. The head of the Pullman Company once got me a bedroom to Los Angeles at the end of the war. (I was then at Fortune .) When I thanked him, he said with feeling: “Doctor, I hope I never live to see the day when special privilege is abolished from our democracy.”

No sane man should ever take a staff position as distinct from some line responsibility in Washington. One should get his power not from the man above but from the job below. One should be not one of the people the President wants to see but one that he must see.

The State Department has a sense of tradition. It believes that because we had a poor foreign policy under Truman and Eisenhower, we should have a poor one under Kennedy. No one can complain about that.

The President said that one of the rare and unexpected pleasures of his post was reading the F.B.I, reports on his appointees. No one could imagine how many seamy things were reported about even the most saintly of his men. And no one, he asserted, would ever go into public life if they knew what some second person would eventually be reading about them in these documents.

The government [of Thailand] is strong and moderately corrupt. This is better than the only alternative, which is weak and moderately corrupt.

[On Nepal] As the result of recent political convulsions, the administration of the country has gone sadly to pot. On the other hand the country is so primitive that it doesn’t need much administration, so the latter isn’t much missed. The question is what, if anything, we do. The temptation is to do nothing: it seems certain that this course will find favor in Washington.

An ambassador cannot enjoy statues celebrating active love in all its infinite Indian variety without wondering who is watching or photographing.

Asked whether Calcutta is getting dirtier or cleaner, I said there was scope for further effort and propounded a law, which is that the more intelligent the people of a city, the worse its government. Being intelligent, they believe it obligatory to concern themselves with global issues. As a result, the streets get deeper and deeper in filth. When they notice the filth, they debate the philosophy of trash prevention and collection rather than hiring men to clean up.

If you want to put yourself in solid in the government of the United States, you should guide your boss into a big error. Then he is your partner in expiation and apology.

I am always struck with how shapeless colonels look in civilian clothes.

Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.

[At a Geneva conference on Laos] The British with great politeness and urbanity denounced the Russians. The Russians then denounced the British and Americans. The North Vietnamese joined the Russians; the South Vietnamese came down on the side of the Americans. The Indians and the Burmese remained silent, having the day before, being neutral, denounced everybody. The meeting lasted only two hours. Short meetings are a great aid to the peace, for otherwise the denunciations are longer.

The warmest words of friendship are exchanged just before the breaking of diplomatic relations.

It is far easier to pull back from a dismal prediction than to move on from a sanguine one. This, indeed, is the lesson on which Joe Alsop has built his reputation.

I stressed to the President the importance of realizing that in economics, the majority is always wrong.

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