Liberal Economics and Democracy

Keynes, Galbraith, Thurow, and Reich

Conrad P. Waligorski

Assailed by conservative critics in Congress, academia, and television talk shows, liberal economics may be in a fight for its political life. Conrad Waligorski contends, however, that rumors of its death are premature and far from desirable. His close analysis of the political theories of John Maynard Keynes, John Kenneth Galbraith, Lester Thurow, and Robert Reich reveals why liberal economics remains a vigorous force in the debates over our nation's future.

Waligorski argues that, despite individual differences, these economists are bound together by a common vision of the public good. Collectively, these thinkers represent a strong counter tradition to the laissez-faire, free-market philosophy of James Buchanan, Milton Friedman, F. A. Hayek, Newt Gingrich, and other proponents of minimalist government and "trickle-down economics."

“Waligorski shows why there is such resilience and viability to this brand of liberalism. It integrates politics and economics, has a place for power and inequality, and most of all shows that economics need not ignore social justice or democracy. The chapter on Keynes is as good a short piece on the economist as can be found anywhere.”

—Kenneth M. Dolbeare, author of American Political Thought

“A coherent and insightful book by a sagacious thinker.”

—Charles E. Lindblom, author of Politics and Markets

Contrary to such critics, liberal economists advocate government regulation as a guard against the power of the marketplace to erode our most cherished political values and social institutions. For these economists, a completely free market is definitely not the best market for democracy; an unrestrained market guarantees neither fairness nor prosperity and in Keynes' time nearly destroyed our nation.

Waligorski locates the roots of their tradition in the thought exemplified by American Progressives John Dewey and Louis Brandeis and British liberal L. T. Hobhouse. But he also shows that these economists are no ivory tower theorists, that they are genuinely engaged with real-world problems and politics. Indeed, all of these theorists have written for a broad public in an effort to influence public policy and all have been political activists and/or advisors at various points in their careers.

A fitting sequel and companion to Waligorski's last book, The Political Theory of Conservative Economists, this new work provides a provocative challenge to the relentless conservative and libertarian attacks on the regulatory welfare state. Certainly, few debates will be more closely watched in this presidential election year.

About the Author

Conrad P. Waligorski is professor of political science at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. In addition to The Political Theory of Conservative Economists, he is also coauthor of Anglo-American Liberalism: A Reader in Normative Political Economy and People and Politics: An Introduction to Political Science.